Park funds may go to Fire Dept. shortfall

 

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – City council will consider a proposal that would fund part of an $800,000 budget shortfall with the fire department by re-appropriating money that was set to go to the city’s parks department.  The shortfall is due to a miscalculation.

City officials discovered the miscalculation earlier this month, which left council members with the task of finding funds to make up the deficit.

Council already approved part of the shortfall by transferring $400,000 from the Board of Works’ department budget to the fire department’s budget.

“We need to put more money into the fire department,” said Geoff Paddock, Fort Wayne 5th District council member.  “We didn’t quite do the job that we should have last summer when we put this formula together.  I take responsibility for that as a councilman.”

Earlier this year, another proposal that would have made up the other half was shot down, by a 5-4 vote.  That proposal would have taken $400,000 from the parks department’s budget.

“They proposed to take it out of parks, which was not approved, and is coming back to us a second time around,” said Russ Jehl, Fort Wayne 2nd District council member.

When the proposal was re-introduced at Tuesday night’s meeting, only Jehl and Councilman John Schoff voted no it.  The proposal still needs final approval, which could come at the council’s March 11 meeting.

Jehl said he voted against Tuesday’s proposal, and the first time it was introduced, because the city has made a promise to residents to repair roads and beautify city parks.  The proposal breaks those promises.

“The first blip that we have in the road, we have gone back on our promise and immediately gone after cuts to both roads and parks,” Jehl said. “I just don’t support that.  These are supposed to be the first things we pay for, not the last.”

Jeremy Bush, the president of Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Local 124 said it’s unfortunate that both the board of works and parks department could give up parts of their funds to help alleviate the fire department’s budget. He said this situation isn’t ideal, but the Fort Wayne Fire Department’s budget must be fixed.

“The safety and those concerns that we have for the citizens have to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, so that has to take priority.” Bush said.

“We want to make sure that we’re on a path where we have enough firefighters in our academy, so we can have those first responders on the street,” Paddock said.  “I think later, we’ll see if we can find some other funding to make up for cutting, particularly in the parks.”

Fort Wayne Parks Department Executive Director Al Moll was not available for comment Tuesday night, but Moll has told the News-Sentinel, “If this is what (the administration) needs to do, I support it,” he said.  “We don’t want to put parks above public safety.”

 

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