City rolls out budget topics, format

The City of Hood River rolled out a new budget procurement process for its vehicle fleet at the Aug. 13 city council meeting.

The end result was a mayor pleased with the direction the process was taking the city but left an occasionally confused council and a few befuddled moments for department heads.

Budget Director Lynn Rasmussen briefed the council on the changes to the process at the start of the meeting.

Hood River Fire Chief Devon Wells, Police Chief Neal Holste and Public Works Director Mark Lago then all made presentations to the council outlining their plans for vehicle replacements or purchases.

The new budget model outlines how much the department must put away each year until a vehicle’s scheduled replacement date in order to fully fund the replacement.

“One of the modifications to the policy established and prioritized the funding of reserves. Equipment replacement is one of those reserves,” read Finance Director Lynn Rasmussen’s explanation of the policy change. “This policy recognizes the prudence of financially planning for the future replacement of capital equipment used in ongoing operations.”

Holste made a pitch to purchase three replacement vehicles, a Ford Interceptor pursuit vehicle, a Chevy pickup and a Jeep Cherokee SUV.

The Interceptor would replace a seven-year old Crown Victoria in the police fleet; the new Cherokee would replace a Cherokee due for replacement eight years ago and the pickup would replace the department’s 1986 Chevy pickup and a Chevy Impala with 10 years of service.

“I looked at our replacement program and asked what can we get rid of and replace with something for multiple roles and not one use,” Holste said.

While the council liked the idea of a cost-savings model to reduce the size of the current police fleet by one vehicle, they did share several concerns with Holste, namely the cost of the Interceptor, and the lack of information on the budget sheet showing that vehicles would be phased out.

The Interceptor costs $48,000 while the 2012 Dodge Charger, which is currently the department’s most modern pursuit vehicle, cost $42,294.

“For this area it’s an incredible vehicle,” Holste said, citing the car’s all-weather capability.

Council member Kate McBride asked Holste if he had considered using green or hybrid vehicles as replacements in his fleet.

“That would be very impractical for us in emergency services,” Holste said. “Based on maintenance costs ... replacement batteries, pursuit, emergency issues on the highway, they are not pursuit-rated so we could have liability issues.”

While the council understood that hybrid or electric vehicle may not be practical for pursuit, they asked the chief to look into the possibility for non-emergency response vehicles, such as evidence collection and other non-pursuit uses.

Wells requested a replacement for Medic 3, an 11-year-old ambulance.

The council questioned Wells as to why the department’s 65-foot ladder truck, which is now used as a secondary ladder truck after the purchase of a 95-foot ladder truck in 2011, had not been sold.

“We couldn’t justify the sale of it,” Wells said of the decision to keep the engine.

That did not please Mayor Babitz.

“I don’t know if those decisions were justified before us ... it’s the equivalent of purchasing another truck,” Babitz said.

While the council asked police and fire to come back with modified requests at the next meeting, they did approve a pair of Chevy Silverado 3500 HD pickups, one diesel and one gas for public works.

In other Hood River government happenings:

n The city public works department announced that water restrictions for the installation of a new water line would not go into effect until Sept. 6.

n The Port of Hood River Commission will host the second of its two stakeholder roundtables to consider whether or not to offer a lease for a recreational cable park in the Nichols Boat Basin.

This roundtable will be for groups opposed to the project.

The public is welcome to attend but no additional public testimony will be taken on the cable park at the meeting. A chance to submit public testimony will be offered in a Sept. 12 meeting at the Port.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Port Commission boardroom.

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