City department heads make plea for funding

The heads of London’s public service departments gathered to present their budgetary needs at city council’s Nov. 6 meeting.

Police Chief Pete Tobin started his report with a sentiment that would be repeated often over the course of the night: the city departments need more money.

“We are a far cry from where we should be, both in our capital and our operating budgets,” Tobin said.

Personnel needs are at the top of Tobin’s list. He specifically mentioned the need for a school resource advisor to be stationed in the schools. The advisor would perform several functions, including serving as an authority figure, conducting investigations when necessary, and providing immediate protection to students.

Fire Chief Todd Eades’ list of desired improvements includes increased person-nel and a sub-station. On the personnel side, Eades said he needs an assistant to run the station when he is away. A sub-station, he said, would provide better fire protection to the south side of London, especially when a train blocks traffic flow. As an example, he cited the recent collision of a car and train, where the paramedics were separated from the wrecked car by the train.

“This sub-station wouldn’t have to be big. It wouldn’t have to be a palace or anything. It could just hold one truck,” he said.

Street Superintendent Bob Virts said his department no longer has enough funds to carry out preventative maintenance on city streets. It’s a problem, he said, that will end up costing the city more money in the long run. He added that streets aren’t the only infrastructure in need of repair.

“I won’t even try to give you an estimate on what it would cost to bring our sewers up to date. Without money, it’s virtually impossible at this point to do any of it.”

Ryan Ladd, the Parks and Recreation director, said that many London residents have approached him about im-provements needed in the city parks.

In a written report to council, Ladd stated, “Resi-dents of the community have an impression that the city Department of Parks and Recreation does not do an adequate job of annually maintaining community facilities. After researching other parks and recreation departments’ annual responsibilities, I would agree that we do not complete the tasks other departments do.”

Ladd acknowledged that support for improved Parks and Recreation services might wane when residents are presented with the bill.

“They say they want it; it’s up to you guys to see if they really want it [by putting a levy on the ballot],” Ladd said. If a levy is passed and more funding is provided to the Parks and Recreation Department, “people would see a big improvement,” Ladd said.

In other business, council considered an ordinance proposed in response to a request by Time Warner. The ordinance would allow the city to assess a tax of up to 5 percent on video services in the city. Currently, London assesses a tax of 3 percent on cable television, but Time Warner is providing a new service that delivers movies, thereby necessitating a new discussion on the amount of tax to charge.

“I’m reluctant to pass what is essen-tially a pass-through tax to people who can’t vote on it,” said councilman Stan Kavy.

Council decided to hold off on a decision until their meeting on Nov. 20  to give them time to consider the issue.

Council renewed, for the 12th time, an assessment to pay for the maintenance of shade trees within the corporate limits of London. The assessment will be collected over the course of two years and is expected to raise $40,000.

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