Crestwood considers bid to provide police, fire service to Oakland

Ways and Means Committee scheduled this week to discuss 2009 budget

By BURKE WASSON

To generate additional revenue, Crestwood officials are considering submitting a bid to provide police and fire service to the neighboring city of Oakland.

City Administrator Jim Eckrich recently informed the Board of Aldermen that Oakland officials contacted Crestwood leaders informing them that their contract with the Kirkwood Police Department expires at the end of this year. Crestwood already participates in a mutual-aid agreement with Kirkwood to provide fire service to Oakland.

With these factors in mind, Oakland officials have invited Crestwood leaders to bid on providing police and fire services to Oakland from Jan. 1, 2009, to June 30, 2014. The bid is due Friday, Oct. 10.

At press time, Eckrich had no specific bid data to provide police and fire service to Oakland. Should the city of Oakland accept Crestwood’s bid, the Crestwood Board of Aldermen also would have to approve an agreement.

The additional coverage area for Crestwood police and fire would be roughly six-tenths of a mile down South Sappington Road within Oakland’s boundaries on the north side of Interstate 44, Police Chief Michael Paillou recently told aldermen.

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel believes providing police and fire service to another city may warrant considerable discussion from aldermen and might necessitate a work session.

“This is a very short timeframe,” Miguel said. “I believe I saw in here where Oakland wishes to have the service in place by the first of the year. And as I understand what is being done here is that we’re going to submit a bid. If we as a city submit a bid, there’s some obligation there on that bid. I think if the city wishes to submit a bid as far as expanding their police and fire coverage, that’s a subject that warrants a fair amount of discussion and possibly a work session to determine if the board in fact wants to go in that direction.”

“The city’s bid will be conditional on Board of Aldermen approval,” Eckrich said. “We’re not going to submit a bid that obligates us to do this in any way without Board of Aldermen approval. And if Oakland doesn’t accept that, they choose not to accept that …”

“Why is Oakland seeking bids and who are they seeking bids from?” Miguel said.

“Other than neighboring cities, I don’t know who they’re seeking them from,” Eckrich said. “They’re seeking them because their contract with Kirkwood expires Dec. 31, 2008.”

“Is there some reason they haven’t renegotiated a bid with Kirkwood at this time?” Miguel asked.

“They don’t necessarily have renegotiating power with that contract,” Eckrich said. “I’m not sure how the contract was set up. I don’t know the answer to that.”

City Clerk Tina Flowers, a Kirkwood resident, told Miguel she believes the contract goes out to bid every five years.

Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder expressed concern about the city’s financial condition and questioned why Crestwood officials would want to stretch city resources to another area.

In response, Eckrich assured Nieder that the city would not enter into a contract that would result in the loss of funds for Crestwood.

“We’re basically strapped for cash and trying to take care of ourselves,” Nieder said. “Why would we want to even think about taking on the obligations of supplying these services and extending ourselves to the city of Oakland? What benefit do we expect to receive from that?”

“Money,” Eckrich said. “They pay us for it.”

“I know, but will it pay for itself?” Nieder said.

“We certainly wouldn’t submit a bid that was going to cost us more to provide …,” Eckrich said. “We only want to enter this deal if it’s financially lucrative to the city.”

“And so, we’re going to possibly look at increasing staff?” Nieder said. “Have we looked at any of this stuff yet?”

“Not yet,” Eckrich said. “I’ve asked and directed the police chief and fire chief to submit this information to me. If their submittal includes any increase in staff, it won’t go any farther than my desk. If it doesn’t and there’s a way to increase our revenues, I think I would be negligent if I was not at least looking into that.”

As for Crestwood’s overall finances, Eckrich informed aldermen that he soon would deliver a draft 2009 budget to the Ways and Means Committee.

The Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to review the draft 2009 budget at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, and today, Oct. 9, at the Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive. The committee is comprised of Mayor Roy Robinson, board President Chris Pickel of Ward 2 and Ward 4 Alderman John Foote.

After the committee signs off on the draft 2009 budget, the proposed budget tentatively is scheduled to be presented Nov. 25 and Dec. 9 to the Board of Aldermen.

With sales-tax revenues falling below September projections, some aldermen conveyed at the board’s Sept. 23 meeting that city officials should rein in 2008 spending before approving the 2009 budget. Miguel reported that September sales-tax revenues were roughly $200,000 below projections.

With that in mind, Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland proposed scheduling a work session in the near future to address 2008 spending and possibly make cuts to balance the city’s year-end budget.

A presentation of city finances at an April 30 town-hall meeting showed that while $12,676,109 is budgeted for city services in the 2008 budget, Crestwood officials at that time believed “the city may not have enough revenue to cover those expenditures.”

City officials have said that if the city can’t collect the revenue this year to pay for expenses, the city’s cash reserve would be utilized.

While Robinson estimated in May that the city had $3.5 million to $4 million in cash on hand, Miguel estimated in July that the city had roughly $5.5 million in cash on hand.