ST. GEORGE – St. George City Council discussed budget recommendations for public safety Thursday, including additional police officers and related personnel to help keep up with city’s growth.
“As you know, we’re busy. There’s a lot going on,” St. George Police Chief Marlon Stratton told the council.
Earlier this month the City Council adopted a tentative $270 million budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. Pending the budget’s final adoption, the council has been hearing from the city department heads on funding needs and requests.
The budget’s general fund, which pays for city services, is projected to be $73 million, with public safety – law enforcement and fire protection – taking the largest chuck at $24.6 million.
The Police Department was originally recommended to bring on four new positions: a bike patrol sergeant, traffic officer, animal services officer and a dispatcher.
“I think our bike patrol can really make a difference,” Stratton said, referring to keeping areas around the city’s incoming apartment complexes safe, as well as keeping tabs on the city’s homeless population.
Using the bike patrol and other specialized units like drug task force and traffic units proactively, Stratton said he hopes to reduce the mounting workload of the patrol officers.
As for the new traffic officer, Stratton said, “We get a lot of feedback from people of their frustrations with the way people drive in St. George.”
Along with the four new positions, the Police Department is also looking to hire three officers to replace those who are retiring or moving.
Filling those positions has not been easy. Where two openings would draw as many as 150 applications a few years ago, that is nowhere the case now, Stratton said. The department has also had difficulty finding and keeping quality dispatchers, due in part to the stress that comes with the job.
Council decided to add two additional officers: another traffic officer and a patrol officer.
Staffing issues are also a concern for the St. George Fire Department, which has nine positions slated for the coming year — provided a federal grant comes through.
The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant is administered through Federal Emergency Management Agency and has been awarded to St. George twice before, St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker said, which makes him optimistic about getting it this year.
Around $2.2 million has been put toward the construction of Station 9, the newest fire station set in Little Valley.
Read more: New fire station slated for Little Valley
Stoker announced the possibility of four new stations to built in the next five or more years.
One station would be near the St. George Regional Airport, another in the Desert Color development as it moves forward, with another on the west side of St. George. The Ledges is also pegged as a future site.
The proposed 2018-19 St. George city budget has yet to be officially adopted by the City Council and can be reviewed here. The council will vote to adopt the budget in an upcoming council meeting.
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