Since the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday had only a single resolution to consider, they were able to spend time talking about several budget adjustments, including one from the Fire and Emergency Services Department. Specifically, Chief Shauwn Howell proposed moving $74,750, much of that from salaries, to pay overtime to firefighters who have had to fill in when other firefighters took new jobs.
Howell said that the department has lost five people, with two of those going to other departments, and has hired four replacements.
One of those who left went to Bentonville and the other to Memphis, Howell said, adding that one had been promoted to engineer but accepted a basic firefighters job at the other department, where she will earn about the same money as she had been making and will receive a pay increase each year for the next three years.
The four new firefighters will not be going to the fire training academy until November, and Howell said in the interim, they will be fitted for equipment and uniforms and other housekeeping duties but will not be assigned to a firetruck.
“It’s a liability issue,” he said.
During a meeting of the council’s Public Safety Committee in September, Howell said a number of other departments in the state start firefighters at higher salaries than Pine Bluff does and pay incentives for things like EMT certification, something he plans to put in his budget for 2018.
A second budget adjustment approved Monday night will allow Pine Bluff Animal Control to move $6,000 from salaries to line items for vehicle maintenance, building maintenance and operating expenses. Another $612 that the shelter received in donations will be used for spay and neutering of animals.
Police Chief Ivan Whitfield, whose department currently oversees Animal Control, said the 2018 budget will call for using just one of the two buildings, and the city is currently looking for a civilian to direct Animal Control functions. Asked about the practicality of that based on the number of animals the shelter takes in, and the number of calls received, he said he hoped a new director would be able to find a way to reduce the numbers.
“We’ve got to start with a lot of education,” Mayor Shirley Washington said. “We’ve got to get people to spay and neuter their animals. That will help.”
Asked by Alderwoman Thelma Walker if the position of Animal Control director had been advertised, Washington said it had. Budget adjustments were also approved to pay vacation owed to a Fire and Emergency Services lieutenant and firefighter, and to add $15,000 to the budget for the Irene Holcomb dog park. That money will come from the city’s Marketing and Image Development fund and was recommended by the council’s Public Works Committee.
The one resolution approved moved a house at 4028 W. 16th Ave. from the Public Nuisance list because the property acquired new owners who plan to bring it up to code.