Mint Hill begins budget work

Police need new cars; fire department starts paying for ladder truck

by Mike Parks

Town departments and nonprofits in Mint Hill are waiting to see if they get everything on their wish list as work starts on next year’s budget.

Members of the Mint Hill town board came together Monday, April 23, to hear presentations from their police, fire, public works and planning departments on how much money each will need, or wants, out of next year’s budget. Town Manager Brian Welch will put together his recommended budget and present that to board members in May. Matthews will host its first budget workshop Monday, May 14 at 5:30 p.m.

Mint Hill Police Chief Tim Ledford said he needs to buy seven new vehicles this year to replace police cars that are too old or worn and provide an extra one for a new position he’d like to create. The town’s relatively new vehicle replacement policy says vehicles need to be replaced once they reach either seven years in age or top 120,000 miles, and that’s what Ledford’s running into now. Especially with the department’s Crown Victorias, which all are at least seven years old and get around 10 miles-per-gallon in gas.

The department would buy Dodge Chargers, which get around 20 miles-per-gallon, at about $39,000 per car. That price includes all the police equipment the vehicles need. Purchasing Chevy Impalas would cost an additional about $7,000 per car, Ledford said.

Ledford said this is likely going to be a repeat request from his department, as the rest of the department’s 39 vehicles hit the 7-year/120,000-mile mark. The department can sell its used vehicles for around $3,000, Ledford said.

The six Chargers would cost the town around $235,000. That doesn’t include an evidence truck, at around $30,000, Ledford would need for the new position he’d like to create.

An evidence technician, which would cost the town around $50,000, is needed, Ledford said, because the department needs a civilian employee to handle the collection, inventory and access of evidence in crimes. He cited a recent trend of defense attorneys arguing that sworn officers handling the storage of evidence could allow those officers easy access to planting or distorting evidence.

Meanwhile, the department’s K-9 vehicles will last another year, but that’s about it, Ledford said. The town may be asked to replace those vehicles on next year’s budget.

The fire department has three employees that will have their full salary on this year’s budget, causing a roughly $150,000 jump in the department’s budget request from last year. That’s on top of an additional $55,000 the department needs for its first payment on the town’s ladder truck. The payment, the first of five, is $150,820, but the increase to the budget isn’t as much because the town no longer has to make payments on its fire engine, which was around $95,000. In all, the fire department budget could increase to around $1.5 million.

Public Works Director Dwayne Dorton has a long list of things he’d like the town to buy, though he’s got a number of back up plans if that doesn’t work out.

Dorton already borrows a water pump from the fire department for watering around town, and at the new Korean War Veterans Memorial. He’d like the department to have its own pump and tank, which would cost around $5,000 to $6,000. He’d also like a stump grinder, which would cost around $6,000. The town now hires a company to do stump grinding.

There are two big-ticket items Dorton would like: he needs a new sweeper truck, at anywhere from $215,000 to $265,000, to keep town streets clean. The current sweeper truck is in disrepair. Dorton also would like a dump truck, which would cost a little more than $107,000.

Lee Bailey, with the town’s planning department, wants to create a senior planning position to handle the majority of decisions on planning. Bailey would promote one of his current two planners into the position and give them a raise, though board member Tina Ross asked if the person could take on the responsibilities without a raise to save the town some cash. Bailey was opposed to the suggestion.

The town will consider these requests, as well as those of at least 11 area nonprofits, before approving a final budget by June.

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