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Gainesville officials discuss budget goals
$65,000 will buy new equipment
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Gainesville City Council members continued to hear budget presentations Thursday, noting requests from three of the city's larger departments.

This year, instead of presenting specific budget requests, city departments are telling council members about last year's accomplishments and next year's goals. In coming weeks, City Manager Kip Padgett will crunch the hard numbers and present the full budget to the council.

Thursday's presenters — the Gainesville Police Department, Gainesville Fire Department and Chattahoochee Golf Course — all noted a focus on revenues and efficiency during a tough economy.

"I think we've done a great job over this past year with some of the reorganizations within the department to make sure we're giving the best service to our community for the least amount of cost," said Police Chief Brian Kelly.

The police department is building an outdoor gun range to replace the indoor facility that was demolished with the old public safety building on Jesse Jewell Parkway. Construction began on Fullenwider Road in March, and the range will be operational by June.

In addition, the department is updating its records management system to conserve paper and allow officers to type and transfer reports from their patrol vehicles.

"We also want to focus on the reduction of commercial and residential burglary crimes, which will merge with our new records system by helping us to target pattern crimes," Kelly said. "Thefts and burglaries are at the top of our list, and though they were down last year, we're still seeing an average of 23 per month."

The Gainesville Fire Department is focused on maintaining its top Insurance Services Office rating and pursuing grants for the next year.

"We're evaluating and gathering information on what type of grants are out there," said Fire Chief Jon Canada. "We were turned down for two this year, though we made it a long way in that process."

The department will continue to emphasize training this year as part of the Georgia Search and Rescue Program. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency picked Gainesville to be a host site, which means firefighters are trained to respond to emergencies in GEMA's 24-county Area 1 region that includes Hall, Jackson, Banks and White counties.

"A lot of our folks are cross-trained in different areas," Canada said. "We're looking at joint training with other departments and hazardous material training."

The Chattahoochee Golf Club is also putting an emphasis on numbers by increasing the rounds of play and tournament events.

"For a golf course, the goals don't change much because there are always two or three you want to emphasize each year," said Director of Golf Rodger Hogan. "That's about getting the word out, and we've started doing email blasts every few weeks to let golfers know what's going on."

Earlier this year, council members agreed to find funds to patch up two mowers, but now the 13-year-old machines will cost almost $20,000 to repair. They agreed Thursday to set aside $65,000 in council contingency funds to purchase new equipment.

"I'm encouraged by what I see this year. We're up rounds of golf already," Hogan said. "As bad as the snow was in January, we were closed 14 days and were over the year before by 300 rounds. In February, we were up 1,100 rounds. Everything is starting to look good, so now it's time to move forward."