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Gainesville fire, police departments identify goals for next fiscal year
City Manager Kip Padgett expects agencies to hold line on funding requests
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Budget season is beginning for local governments, and the Gainesville City Council reviewed goals and priorities for several departments, including public safety agencies, during a Thursday work session.

City Manager Kip Padgett said he is asking departments to hold the line on funding requests for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Finance Director Melody Marlowe said revenues may tick up slightly, but cautioned it is still too early to tell where exactly they will settle.

The city’s general fund budget for the current fiscal year is about $30.3 million.

Padgett said he would receive specific funding requests from all departments in the coming weeks.

In a tone both serious and joking, Mayor Danny Dunagan told department heads, “If y’all want any extra money ... no.”

Fire department

Firefighters don’t just fight fire anymore. They are often first responders for medical incidents and during inclement weather and other emergencies.

“If we had to name the department now, it probably wouldn’t be the fire department,” said Chief Jerome Yarbrough. 

The department had 7,466 calls for service in 2014.

The city fire department achieved the top insurance rating last year, and Yarbrough said he hopes to build upon this success.

Goals include adding personnel, building a new fire station and increasing commercial business inspections.

Yarbrough said it is important to continue high-quality, in-house training in order to expand coverage and keep response times below five minutes.

“In the last two years, the growth is starting to move” as new residential and commercial development takes shape, Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough also said he wants to expand water rescue training, which can provide firefighters another avenue, Lake Lanier, by which to access residences.

The fire department’s budget in the current fiscal year is about $6.6 million.

Police department

The city’s police department went through a tumultuous few months last year following the ouster of Chief Brian Kelly.

But Carol Martin, who filled the interim role before taking over full time, said the department now has a renewed commitment to educating the public, training officers and analyzing crime trends.

A new records management system that became operable in December will help facilitate these goals by reducing the time it takes to file a completed report to just one day from about two weeks, Martin said.

Priorities include relieving traffic congestion by reducing accidents and responding more promptly to them, and also continuing to address property crimes.

Overall traffic accidents are down so far this fiscal year from the last, Martin said, and so, too, are crimes for entering cars.

Burglaries, however, are slightly up.

Martin said the department will also seek reaccreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies this year.

The police department’s budget in the current fiscal year is about $8.8 million.

More to come

City officials said they will review goals and priorities for the public utilities and parks departments in two weeks, as well as for the Community Service Center.