Fuel costs pinch police budget

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lewisburg's Police Advisory Board conducted a brainstorming session last week on what to do about the high cost of fuel for patrol cars.

Foot patrol "was mentioned," according to Chairwoman Lina Horner. "The bottom line is that the police are here to protect and serve, but they can't do that if they're not on the street."

City Manager Eddie Fuller confirmed the board's position on public safety, but also noted that when the department has six officers patrol in six cars, they might "double up" and have two officers per car to save fuel.

"The board felt we might be compromising our mission without that many cars on the road, but we've got to do something," Fuller said.

Money allocated last summer in this year's budget for gasoline has been exhausted by every department, so funds have been shifted, he said. The fiscal year starts July 1.

Lewisburg's police budget totals some $2.2 million this year with $1.9 million for personnel costs. In recent months the city council decided to have pay raises based on merit and the increase in the cost of living.

"Nothing is confirmed yet" on raises, Fuller said.

Horner said no decision was made on the budget.

Police Chief Chuck Forbis said he's discussed the police budget with Fuller and City treasurer Connie Edde and will have more information when the Police Advisory board meets again on June 19.

The advisory board also considered a gap in services by two magistrates who set bond and issue warrants.

Their work schedule leaves two uncovered times: 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 6-8 a.m.

"We were not in a position to take any action," Horner said. "The county hires them. They hire two and we pay for one. They take care of it when the city office is closed."

Discussion during the advisory board meeting didn't include a mention of the Marshall County Circuit Court Clerk's office, according to Horner.

Criminal warrants are issued during and after regular hours, according to Elinor Brandon Foster, the circuit court clerk who also has the authority to set bonds, and has done so.

Horner said police officers waiting for a magistrate to come on duty during the two periods each day can result in overtime costs and delay a suspect's right to bond.

Forbis has been chief since the first of the month and on Friday said he'd be more familiar with the situation by the time the board meets next month.