Fire dept. still not fully staffed under 2014 budget
The 2014 budget for Columbia went into effect Tuesday.
Public safety will see some some changes this year. The fire department has just over $800,000 more than in last year's budget.
"The biggest increase we saw in this year's budget was five grant-funded firefighter positions that became part of the budget," said Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer with the Columbia Fire Department.
Personnel services for the fire department are seeing an extra estimated $760,000 this year, but that's not the only thing.
This year's capital jumped to $207,065 from $38,435 last year.
Fraizer said that extra capital money is being saved for some important technology upgrades, like some of the equipment they use to go into a fire.
"We're working to upgrade that equipment slowly over time," Fraizer said. "It's a really big cost, so we're chiseling away at that. That $200,000 is going to be used just to do that."
Despite the grant funds for five additional firefighters, the fire department still won't be fully staffed for 2014.
"Station 2 has been operating with one company since station 9 opened," Fraizer said.
He said there should be two companies operating within station 2, but there hasn't been since 2009.
"We saw a shortfall in sales tax revenue that year, so to help compensate for that, a decision was made to take one of the two companies that we re at fire station 2 and relocate them to station 9," Fraizer said.
Because that problem still won't be fixed this year, the result is increased response times all over the city.
"One thing we've seen is an increase in response times as our resources get spread out a little but more," Fraizer said.
The average response time goal is down about 5 percent from 2009.
Fraizer said despite the challenges facing the department, they are continuing to do the best they can with the resources they have and will work toward quicker response times.
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