More money for police, firefighters in Oxford 2013 budget
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Sep 26, 2012 | 3371 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OXFORD – Oxford residents can expect expanded police and fire services in the coming year through the city’s 2013 budget.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Oxford City Council approved its approximately $35.7 million 2013 budget. The new budget includes increased spending for police and fire department equipment and personnel to better protect the city. The budget goes into effect Oct. 1.

Fire Chief Gary Sparks said his department will have about $3 million in fire tax funds to purchase new equipment and facilities. Sparks said his department will purchase a new $400,000 pumper truck and two new service trucks, each about $150,000. He added that the department plans to build a new fire station on Highway 78 and relocate two existing fire stations on Friendship Road and in Coldwater. The department also plans to build a new training tower.

Sparks said the new equipment and fire station changes will improve coverage for residents and ensure their insurance ratings do not increase for the foreseeable future.

“This will make sure that insurance level doesn’t go up,” Sparks said.

Sparks noted his department might also hire additional personnel to handle the extra equipment, but that their salaries would be funded through the city’s general fund and not the fire tax.

The fire department will get about $1.48 million from the city’s general fund in 2013.

Police Chief Bill Partridge said he will soon hire eight more personnel, bringing the department’s total to 54 employees.

“And we’ll be buying six new vehicles,” Partridge said.

The police department will receive about $5.6 million in the 2013 budget.

Partridge said the extra personnel are needed to better cover Oxford. The city has grown in recent years through annexation, creating more ground for police and firefighters to cover.

The budget projects the city will have a $250,231 surplus in 2013 due mainly to expected growth in sales tax revenue, said Alton Craft, Oxford’s finance director. The budget projects the city will receive $25.5 million in sales taxes in the 2013 fiscal year.

“We’ve got the Publix opening up later this year and we’ve got some other smaller businesses opening up,” Craft said.

Craft said most of the budget’s expenditures will go toward salaries and benefits. He added that the budget includes a 5 percent raise for all city employees.

Also during the meeting, the council approved a $472,417.50 change order from the Taylor Corporation, the company contracted to build the approximately $4.3 million sports complex across from the Oxford Exchange. The project covers approximately 361 acres and will eventually include fields for soccer, football, baseball and softball.

The change order will cover all contract delay fees and permit fees accrued on the project during the last 20 months.

“This will catch us up, so now we’ll only be paying them for future work,” said Council President Chris Spurlin.

Spurlin said part of the change order will also cover the cost to restart construction work on the project. A new construction date has not yet been set.

Construction at the site has been on hold ever since allegedly ancient American Indian remains were found there in February 2010. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted the project until a mitigation plan was in place that included, among other things, a full archaeological survey of the site and what to do with the remains. The plan was put in place and the survey was finally completed earlier this year.

Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star
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