Police, fire won’t be ‘outsourced’

By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

No further discussions of eliminating or “outsourcing” the Police Department or Fire Department will be considered by the Crestwood Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen voted 5-3 last week to close any discussion about eliminating or outsourcing the Police Department or Fire Department and “clearly affirm its intention to maintain the city’s fire services and its Police Department,” according to the motion made by Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore and seconded by Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding.

Though Breeding seconded the motion, he voted against it along with Ward 3 Al-derman Don Maddox and Ward 3 Alder-man Jerry Miguel.

The discussion of the city’s Police and Fire departments came before aldermen conducted a public hearing on the fiscal 2005 budget, which was adopted Dec. 14.

Fiscal 2005 general fund revenues are projected at $8,644,300, while total expenditures are estimated at $8,753,339 — a deficit of $109,039. The budget also projects transferring $250,000 from the general fund to the general fund non-expendable trust fund to help bolster the city’s reserves. The non-expendable trust fund ultimately will serve as the city’s cash-flow account.

Internal service fund transfers from the capital improvements fund and the park and stormwater fund totaling $295,847 and a $90,132 long-term internal service fund repayment to the general fund from the capital improvement fund would result in projected net general fund expenditures of $8,617,360 — a surplus of $26,940.

Park and stormwater fund revenues for fiscal 2005 are projected at $2,522,966, while total expenditures are projected at $2,827,790 — a deficit of $304,824. Based on a projected beginning fund balance of $1,131,443, an ending fund balance of $826,619 is estimated on Dec. 31, 2005.

For fiscal 2005, capital improvement fund revenues are projected at $1,741,798, while total expenditures are estimated at $1,792,487 — a deficit of $50,689. Based on a projected beginning fund balance of $241,049, an ending fund balance of $190,370 is estimated on Dec. 31, 2005.

Included in the capital improvement budget is $401,080 for the planned reconstruction of Ewers Drive, Ewers Court and Lawndale Drive. A motion by Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood to postpone the street reconstruction and use the $401,080 to accelerate the capital improvement fund’s repayment of $901,000 to the general fund was defeated with a 5-3 vote.

Voting in favor of the motion were True-blood, Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe and Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher.

Breeding said, “… We’re not the only city that’s hurting financially. We don’t live in this bubble … If we take the $400,000 and accelerate (repayment) of the debt, I’m not sure really what that buys us. And to be honest with you, I don’t want to vote for it, but I’m going to because it’s the right thing to do. I’ll tell you why I don’t want to vote for it and I hate being political, but I’m not going to go down — I can’t go there. I will vote for it. Ewers has to be in there, but I don’t want to for political reasons and you all can figure that out later.”

Regarding the discussion of the Police and Fire departments, LaBore distributed a memorandum to aldermen, sharing some observations about outsourcing public safety services. Contracting with a fire protection district, the memo stated, would “result in significantly higher costs to the residents and no increased services to the residents.” While the cost of contracting with St. Louis County for police service currently cannot be estimated, if money was saved, “the police services received will be significantly less than what the residents of Crestwood are used to receiving,” the memo stated.

Noting that “the morale of both the city’s Police Department and its Fire Department has been disturbed by repeated references to such outsourcing,” LaBore’s memo stated, “The majority sense of this board needs to be clearly articulated to our residents and to our staff. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I move that the Board of Aldermen of the city of Crestwood clearly affirm its intention to maintain the city’s fire services and its Police Department. We herewith close the topic of outsourcing these departments and ask all parties to cease bringing this topic to the board for its consideration.”

Noting aldermen have discussed the city’s various departments, including public works, parks and recreation and the Fire Department, Miguel said, “I feel those discussions led to a better understanding of those departments and those functions and in some cases — clearly in the case of the public works and parks — to a consolidation and some cost savings. I do not think that we should just totally out of hand discard any discussions about the police service. And please don’t get me wrong on this, I think the police service in Crestwood is excellent. I think it’s outstanding. But to move that it not be discussed or brought to the attention of this board, I think is not in order.”

Mayor Tom Fagan discussed the tax rates of fire protection districts in comparison to the city’s tax rate of 25 cents per $100.

He noted that contracting with Affton would cost citizens four times as much as they currently pay and contracting with Mehlville would cost citizens five times as much as they now pay.

“It seems to me we get a great bargain from having our own Fire Department and it is tremendously advantageous to the city and our residents for that Fire Department to be here,” Fagan said.

Miguel said, “Your honor, you certainly are correct in regard to the cost of the Fire Department. It would be the most foolish decision I could imagine to — for us to do away with our fire service …”

Breeding later added, “Well, there is one thing I can guarantee that our Police De-partment does more than just police. They do the residential code enforcement. They run the — do things here with the Muni-cipal Court. I’m sure they do a lot more things that I don’t even know about … I’m not sure the cost savings, if you look at the whole big picture, can be truly documented because someone from the county Police Department is not going to do residential code enforcement. We’ll have to hire one or two people for that. Someone from the county is not going to help run our court. We’ll have to pay someone for that. So when you look at all these numbers, don’t just think our police only police. They also help run this city.”