Cherokee Village Chief Mike Taylor. Highland Chief Kal Dienst and Ash Flat Chief Stacy Horton joined Allen in a discussion about options.
"I have been looking for ways we can possibly save money. I picked the fire and police departments because I feel those are the two services we can absolutely not afford to cut any at all. What I was hoping to do is get everybody together, because you know the business bettter than I do, and see if there is any way, maybe, with a little bit more working together we can save a little bit of money to buy some of this equipment you all need," Allen said.
Allen told the fire chiefs that he had called all the recorder- treasurers in the quad cities and Batesville to get annual budget figures for both the fire and police departments. "The reason I picked Batesville is basically it has the same size (as the Quad Cities). The Batesville Fire Department spent $200,000 less than all four fire departments. Is there any reason for that, or anything we can do to save us money? I am not talking cutting salaries or personnel, that is out of the question. You guys know a lot better than me."
Dienst presented Allen with a second page explaining the Batesville Fire Department's budget after obtaining it from the city's chief Brent Gleghorn. "Their recorder-treasurer gave you their general budget and their Act. 833 and capital improvements are not included." Dienst went on to explain that this brought Batesville's budget up significantly. He said the figures from the area fire departments already included those amounts.
When discussing ways to make cuts, the chiefs told Allen that they were already working on a shoestring budget, and utilizing mutual aid with each other as well as other outlying rural fire departments.
Highland and Hardy are the only departments that, with the exception nof the chiefs, is volunteer based.
"I don't think there is anyone who is a bigger supporter of the fire department than me." Allen said.
The chiefs said fir departments are under appreciated and no one thinks about them until they need their services, and most people think that they never think they will never need them. Things like potholes on a road or sewer problems are what citizen's concentrate on because they are visible problems.
The men told Allen they collaborate and talk frequently about issues they have to deal with in regard to budget shortfalls, and not having enough money to do the things they need.
Each went over their budgets and had similar issues, such as problems receiving grants because grant programs have been on the decline.
Allen asked how they managed to get by on the budgets they have in light of increasing fuel costs. Taylor told Allen that firemen in his department have had to bring toiletries to the station from home because, after they use what they have there is no more money to buy them.
Each of the fire chiefs shared similar stories. Allen agreed there was no room for further cuts in the department and that the men were stretching their resources the best they could.
By the meetings end, he was in agreement that not only was there no room to cut but also with the large business district in Highland that their department needed at least two paid firefighters to be at the station 24 hours a day. This, Allen said was a challenge with budget concerns.
Allen told the chief's he was grateful for their time ant asked that they try to gather a few times a year in a formal setting and discuss problems and concerns with their departments.
Alderman Allen is investigating the problem of fire department funding because Highland's budget planning meetings will be soon.