Beaufort News

Beaufort City Council examines police, fire department spending plans

Beaufort City Council parsed the proposed $15.8 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 department-by-department Tuesday, looking at capital expenditures and what, if anything, different sectors plan to do differently this year.

Beaufort's fire and police departments plan to replace aging vehicles in the coming year, and the public works department expects to begin replacing street lights throughout the downtown area as part of a lighting improvement program, officials said during a council workshop.

If approved, the fire department's budget would increase about $474,967, Chief Sammy Negron said.

"The big ticket item there is the possibility of replacing our 1998 big tower platform (truck) with a smaller aerial apparatus," Negron said.

The department's existing aerial engine has a 100-foot ladder, and Negron proposed switching that out for one with a 75-foot reach and smaller turning radius that he said could better maneuver Beaufort's historic downtown.

The new truck would cost about $633,000, Some of that cost could be offset by selling the larger ladder truck and two additional vehicles, Negron said.

In comparison, replacing the aging 100-foot aerial truck with an updated version of something similar would cost between $1 million and $1.2 million, Negron said.

"It's really too big for our needs," he said.

The department recently made other changes to its vehicle fleet when it down-sized two of its full-size fire trucks to smaller all-response vehicles that officials say better respond to medical calls.

The department allocated $74,000 to replace another vehicle, Negron said, and also needs about $26,000 more this year than last for uniform replacement, among other capital expenses.

Beaufort's police department plans to replace six vehicles -- four marked patrol vehicles and two unmarked detective cars -- in the coming year, police Chief Matt Clancy said..

Each marked patrol vehicle will cost about $34,289. The unmarked cars will cost about $20,609 each, according to budget documents provided by the city.

The department also plans to buy 11 Tasers to replace older models at $900 each and 10 replacement shotguns at $550 each, according to the documents.

The lighting improvement program will be funded through a tax increment finance district.

For the most part, the budget looks very similar to last year's approximately $15.5 million spending plan, City Manager Scott Dadson said.

Officials have said city residents likely will not see their taxes increase.

Council is scheduled to hear a final reading on the budget later this month.