Police, fire chiefs discuss FY2014 budgets, goals

SHERIDAN — The executive heads of the Sheridan Police Department and Sheridan Fire-Rescue appeared before the City Council Tuesday afternoon to outline their plans for the upcoming fiscal year.
Both SPD Chief Richard Adriaens and SFR Chief Terry Lenhart said that despite a handful of changes to their budgets, citizens can expect the same level of service from the two organizations with increased focus on specific problem issues.

Speaking in regards to Fire-Rescue’s budget request of $1,697,638, Lenhart said his department plans to spend the coming year working to improve a metric that could potentially save property owners money when it comes time to pay their insurance bills.

When insurance companies determine how much to charge for policies on both residential and commercial properties, they often take into account the rating of the local fire department issued by an organization called Insurance Services Office, Inc.

Sheridan was most recently evaluated by the program in 2011 and scored a five on a 10-point scale.

Lenhart told the Council that by increasing firefighter training, making improvements to the department’s dispatch system and more regularly touching base with commercial property owners in regards to fire prevention, he believes that Fire-Rescue might be able to improve its rating by one position during the coming fiscal year.
While that might not be enough to lower insurance rates for homeowners, Lenhart said the owners of commercial real estate might stand to benefit.

“They could see some relief from those insurance rates,” he said.
Also during his presentation, Lenhart touched on other Fire-Rescue initiatives, including the department’s relationships with other county fire suppression agencies and law enforcement agencies.
“I think we have really positive relationships with those entities,” he said.

In 2012, Fire-Rescue responded to a total of 711 calls.
Among those calls, the department suppressed 70 fires that represented about $650,000 in property losses.
The proposed 2014 Fire-Rescue budget is about $60,000 less than last year’s allotment.

As for the police, Adriaens’s requested allotment stands at $3,012,147.

An additional amount of approximately $200,000 will likely come from grant allocations and other channels.

Those monies, however, could be lost if national public safety programs fall victim to federal cuts.

Should that occur, Adriaens said the department will work to find a way to compensate without sacrificing public safety.

“If those grants go away, we’ll have to change how we operate,” he said.

Until then, Adriaens said the department will continue to aggressively apply for the kinds of grants that allow officers to step up enforcement activities on issues such as drunk driving and underage consumption of alcohol.

Currently, the department is working to reduce overall crime by 10 percent in 2013. A combination of increased educational activities and a more aggressive ticketing strategy is being employed in the hopes of reaching that end.

Most funds for police and firefighters come from a combination of the city’s general fund, Optional One-Cent Sales Tax funds and the supplemental budget fund.

The entire proposed city budget totals about $44.3 million. City officials expect to have the document finalized toward the end of May.

About

Paolo Cisneros

Paolo Cisneros joined The Sheridan Press staff in August 2012. He covers business, energy and public safety. A Chicago native, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011.

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