Borough Council looks at police, fire costs for 2015

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Police Chief seeks additional police officer, fire chief; council questions costs

By Kyle CarrozzaStaff Writer, The Times


Borough Police Chief James McGowan is asking Borough Council for an additional full time police officer to replace two part time officers as part of the 2015 municipal budget.

DOWNINGTOWN – Along with Borough Finance Director Judith Walters, the Downingtown Borough Council reviewed the 2014 budget and plans for the 2015 budget at Wednesday night’s meeting.

With an expected expenditure increase of up to $476,000, council members examined necessary expenses and areas where cuts could be made.

Among additional expenses for next year, Police Chief James R. McGowan III requested a full time police officer to replace two part timers. The hire would cost $45,000 more than the 2014 budget. While the department was able to save money this year because of having personnel on leave, McGowan said that the police could not operate in full capacity, having to cut back on bike patrols, for example. He also said that an additional full time officer would be cheaper than paying overtime to part timers.

McGowan, who worked with Walters on much of the fire department budget, advised council to hire a full time fire chief for 2015 as well, calling it an “absolute need.”

“You need a career chief,” he said. “You can’t afford not to.”

McGowan also recommended leasing two new vehicles for fire personnel. The vehicles would cost $10,000 per year for each vehicle plus a one-time payment of $5,000 each for outfitting them with equipment. However, he said that the vehicles are not as much of a priority as a new chief.

“I’m not jumping up and down over this stuff,” he said after Borough Manager Stephen Sullins said that the borough has to cut expenses.

McGowan said that he is currently compiling a report on fire department operations that will address short and long term solutions.

Council also noted that East Caln covers half of the cost for fire department expenses.

Codes and Zoning Officer Thomas Yuhas requested an additional employee for the codes department. The employee would cost the borough $17 an hour. With the proposed June hire, the total cost would be about $22,000 for the second half of the year. The borough currently uses a contractor for rental inspections, but Yuhas said that the contractor is currently looking for another job and will probably not be available later next year.

Yuhas said that having an additional employee would free up some of his time and allow him to attend developers’ bills more closely.

Some council members seemed to oppose the idea, citing the need to cut expenses.

“I just have a lot of trouble bringing in all these bodies for a department that’ in the red,” said Council President Anthony Gazzerro.

Councilor Nick Winkler agreed.

“I think at the rate that we’re going, it’s really unsustainable,” he said.

Council will continue to examine the issues for the remainder of the year and will look to vote on the 2015 budget in December.

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