Although sparse in number last week, those attending the public hearing for the proposed Corinne City 2021 budget were not without opinions.
As Mayor Brett Merkley went through the figures line item by line item, of particular interest was the item under “General Expenses — Wages for Fire — $110,000.” This amount includes the wages for two full-time firefighters. At the present time, Corinne is serviced by a volunteer fire department.
Mayor Merkley and Fire Chief Clint Norman have advocated for an upgrade in the fire department for many months, and the idea has been brought up in several city council meetings. Norman reported that at the present time, there are about 25 well trained and well equipped Corinne volunteer firefighters with about 10-15 of those who can be called upon to respond at any time.
As the area population increases and the demand for emergency services grows, volunteers who respond to calls during the day must leave their employment for hours, which is not fair to their employer or to the employee as he loses work time. Many day jobs held by volunteers are not within Corinne city limits and volunteers must travel back and forth, adding downtime at work.
Norman continued, if the fire department were headed by two full-time employees during the day, they would coordinate emergency calls with volunteers, complete all paperwork, do maintenance work on equipment, schedule training, etc., all of which is done now by volunteers. “They would not be sitting,” declared Norman. They would earn their salaries. Volunteers would continue to respond to emergency calls during the night as usual.
Larry Jensen and Patty Tillman both opposed the line item for the fire salary budget and voiced their opinion that it should be eliminated, as they did not think Corinne needed a full-time fire department or the property tax increase needed to fund it. Others in the meeting requested explanations for line items such as amount spent on cell phones, allotments, stipends, etc. The questions and explanations took a goodly amount of time.
City Recorder Kendra Norman reminded the mayor and council that they needed to vote on a budget immediately to be in compliance with the law. Council members requested more details, including specific monetary rewards and costs for both emergency programs.
The council voted to keep the budget within the confines of last year’s budget until the salary question could be resolved. A work meeting, open to the public, will be held July 28 during which the city council will vote on whether or not to adopt a full-time fire department or continue with the volunteer fire department, and to work through Truth in Taxation issues to set the rise in property taxes needed for the change.
In other business, Melina Riser, representative from the mosquito abatement district, gave her annual report. If citizens have comments or requests for spraying, she said to connect with the account online.
The community offers condolences to the family of Ron Hansen, who passed away last week.
From warm, warm, warm to snow on the mountain tips again — spring weather in Corinne. But we have passed the first day of summer, which means the year is half gone. Can we start over?