By Bob Balgemann


A couple of weeks ago Budget and Finance Officer Becky Tobin gave one of her periodic updates on how the city was faring, financially, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to negatively affect so many.

During her presentation she touched on the 2020-21 capital expenditures program for the police, fire and street departments. City council budgeted $993,328 for the current fiscal year, with $336,084 having been spent so far.

For a number of reasons, she felt comfortable with those departments spending some of the money earmarked for capital improvements this year. Among them was buying two Dodge Durango patrol cars for the police department, at a cost of $92,500. That was on city council’s Nov. 2 meeting agenda and ultimately was approved in a 9-0 vote, with one absent.

But approval didn’t come without discussion.

Alderman Marsha Freeman asked Police Chief Shane Woody about his wanting to buy four new patrol cars as part of the capital expenditure schedule during the 2020-21 fiscal year. She wondered if he would be happy with the two Durangos and “share some of the wealth with your brother in arms, Mr. Hyser (Fire Chief Al Hyser), who wants a shift command vehicle for $40,000 and some battery-operated extrication equipment.

“I know that public works bought a new pickup truck out of their sewer depreciation fund, but they’ve also gotten a new snow blower for $150,000 and a snow plow for the front of the new truck, both out of the capital fund. So I’m thinking that Chief Hyser is the only one who hasn’t hit us up yet.

“So, I’m wondering if we’re going to be sharing this wealth, or if you’re going to come back with two more (patrol car purchase requests), and Chief Hyser is also going to want what he’s looking for?”

Tobin reminded Freeman and others that Hyser planned to appear before the Committee of the Whole next month with a couple of items, including the command vehicle, that he wants to purchase.

“I think Chief Woody will be coming back to finish off renovations being made in the patrol area of the Public Safety Building,” she continued. “Other than that, I don’t anticipate anything further right now.”

Wait and see

But she added, “I kind of want to wait and see how the winter goes, with the COVID-19, before we revisit this again, and see if we have the funds to purchase anything else.”

Freeman said that was okay, because the Illinois Municipal League shows the city’s Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) fund being 18 percent down, per capita, from last year “if I’m reading this correctly. And they didn’t revise the forecast from August to October, so it might drop even further.”

That could happen, Tobin replied, but she reminded everyone that MFT funds only can be spent on a couple of things. Among them were the overlay projects that Public Works Director Brent Anderson presents each year, and improvements to Logan Avenue.

Right now, she said MFT funds are going into the Rebuild Illinois grant the city received for the Logan Avenue project.

Returning to the patrol car purchases, Woody said buying two “is a conservative number right now, to get us by. So we’re not having to replace possibly twice as many next year. And this is only on the heels of getting the $1.055 million from the state.”

Freeman continued, “For the next three years you’re looking for five new ones (patrol cars) out of capital (dollars). So that’s going to put us back for the next two years. So we’re looking at six, trying to catch up?”

“We’re going to have to look at what we can afford,” Woody replied. “We may have to revisit the number and see what’s realistic. Looking at two now may put us in a better position than doing nothing at all. The only way she (Tobin) felt comfortable now was due to the extra money we are supposed to get from the state.”

Alderman Wendy Frank asked if police would be able to transfer equipment, such as lights, from the cars being replaced to the new ones? Or would that be another expense?

“We budget to replace everything,” the chief answered. “But the reality of it is we may be able to use some of that other equipment. We just don’t know until we start taking that equipment out what’s going to be salvageable.”

City council ultimately approved buying the two new patrol cars from Kunes Dodge in Belvidere, through the Illinois Statewide Bid Award program.

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