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Department heads plead for more as town budget considered

Leaders have already approved, on first reading, the town budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
But that doesn’t mean some department heads aren’t still trying to get a little more before the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approve the overall budget on final reading.
Last month, several department heads made their cases before the BMA as to why their departments needed a few additional dollars come July 1.
Jeff Thomas, director of solid waste, credited his department for making some decisions over the last year that have “left us in a better position than last year.”
Cost reduction on the second biggest line item in his budget — waste disposal fees — had Thomas requesting more funds to help with the department’s No. 1 expense — salary and wages.
“My assistant Stacey Canter has been in that position for almost two years now, but is not being compensated for that,” Thomas said. “And also, Jeff Davis. He is a six-year employee, but he’s one of the low men on the totem pole. I’d like to bring him up in pay also.”
Gary Lykins, fleet manager for the town, also came seeking pay increases for his employees.
“We are the envy of a lot of fleets on our level of performance. Where we are now took a whole lot of work,” Lykins said. “I’m concerned with the pay level these guys are at. They are at a pay grade 4. Other certified employees in town are at a pay grade 7.”
If he lost one of his certified employees, it would be hard to find a replacement at the current pay scale, Lykins said.
Lykins also pointed out that he had reduced his budget by $10,000 for the upcoming fiscal year.
For at least the second year in a row, Police Chief Matt Hawkins requested the BMA allow him to create a second investigator position.
“Maj. (Matt) Rice is a veteran officer and he has done a fantastic job,” Hawkins said. “It is just to the point where we’re really going to have an issue with service.”
Hawkins cited state statistics that indicate since 2010, Jonesborough has had a 14.63 percent increase in reportable offenses to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Hawkins said he has had to start assigning cases to patrol officers instead of Rice because the caseload is way too heavy for one person. He said the solvability rate on investigations is suffering because of the caseload.
“A second investigator really helps us make some headway,” Hawkins said.
Following his presentation, Hawkins garnered support from Alderman Chuck Vest.
“I felt like last year it was something we needed,” Vest said. “I hope the board agrees to fund it this year. It’s something we need to do.”
Fire Chief Phil Fritts also spoke, pointing out what he considers the main problems within his department.
“One is, we need space. (Washington County Emergency Medical Service is) wanting to put a transport unit in town, which would be huge for the town. But we’ve got to have somewhere to put them,” Fritts said. “I need at least one more bay (at the fire department).”
Fritts also pointed out that two fire engines owned by the department are “getting ready to hit the skids on us.”
In addition, he argued for an assistant.
“I think I may be one of the only department heads that don’t have anybody helping me,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere yet, but we’ve got to start training someone. Eventually I’ll phase out.”
A called BMA meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 17, where leaders may discuss requests before approving the town’s budget on second and final reading.