Sedalia City Council sets 2017 priorities

By Nicole Cooke - [email protected]

The Sedalia City Council, city staff and Mayor Stephen Galliher worked for most of the day Saturday setting priorities and goals for 2017 during the annual strategic planning session.

Council heard presentations from public safety, community development, personnel, public works and finance departments regarding goals and needs for the near future, including requests for funding in the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget.

The planning session allows council and Galliher to hear all major requests, outside of usual operational funding, then present city staff with a ranked list of priorities. As city staff creates the FY18 budget over the next few months, those top priorities are more likely to get first consideration with any available funds once required items are funded.

No official actions were taken during the meeting. Galliher and the seven council members present — Ward 2 Councilman Russell Driskell was absent due to illness, although he joined via phone for part of the meeting — individually ranked their priorities, which were compiled into this list by a facilitator.

Long-term goals

• Purchasing a new Sedalia Fire Department pumper truck ($600,000).

SFD Deputy Chief Greg Harrell joked with those present Saturday that SFD’s requests for FY18 are much smaller than other departments, but cautioned that SFD will be making some large requests in the next few years, including a new pumper. Council chose to include it as a long-term goal this year, as the process to purchase a new truck can take up to a year. Harrell said SFD is set to replace another one in 2024.

• Hiring additional Sedalia Police Department officers.

SPD Officer AJ Silvey spoke to council about the need for additional officers, requesting a total of five over the next few years.

“With the west city limits growing, we’re going to have to grow with the city and that’s just the nature of it,” Silvey explained. “If I’m out west trying to do enforcement at Main and Oak Grove … and I get a call all the way on the other side of Sedalia, it’s a 20-minute response time and I want to provide quality service to Sedalia.”

Silvey explained that SPD aims to have four officers on patrol at all times with one backup, but with a lack of available manpower, having just one or two officers on vacation or sick leave has the department coming up short. Hiring five additional officers would add one officer per each of four shifts, plus add a detective.

“One issue we run into right now is the recruitment and retention and part of it is a salary issue, but the other part of it is that these guys work really hard, and for our 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift, it is nearly impossible to get out of work on time …” Silvey said. “They’re turning 13-, 14-, 15-hour days and missing time with their families … I know supervisors have had to deny requests for vacation because of manpower.”

He said SPD has become “completely reactionary” rather than proactive policing. He added that a recent conversation with the Missouri State Highway Patrol revealed that criminals, including drug cartels, route their plans through Sedalia on U.S. Highways 50 or 65 because it’s become public knowledge Sedalia doesn’t have enough officers.

“I think your perspective matches the public perspective,” Ward 1 Councilwoman Jo Lynn Turley said. “People know we don’t have enough police presence.”

• Utilizing solar energy at city buildings.

There was little to no discussion about this topic, but Community Development Director John Simmons briefly touched on the subject during his presentation about city building maintenance. He said the city does not use solar energy, but it is something he would like to look into in the future for certain buildings as it becomes more efficient.

• Purchasing trash bins for the roughly 7,100 residents who utilize city sanitation services ($355,000).

Citizens have been vocal about their desire for the city to provide trash bins. Public Works Director Brenda Ardrey said she is looking into grant options for trash and recycling bins, but that without a grant the purchase would be an expensive one.

Short-term goals

• Police Pension Fund payment ($286,000).

• Hiring two additional SPD communications officers ($82,000).

SPD Chief John DeGonia is requesting two additional communications officers, otherwise known as dispatchers, to help ease the workload. SPD handles calls for itself, SFD and the Pettis County Ambulance District. DeGonia said there just aren’t enough dispatchers to handle the more than 120,000 calls that came in from January 2016 to November 2016 (December numbers weren’t available).

He also offered statistics on overtime, with every dispatcher racking up at least 100 OT hours in 2016, with one dispatcher reaching almost 200, which cost the city a total of $35,000. DeGonia noted that PCAD does pay for two communications officers, part of the contract for SPD handling PCAD calls, and that he plans to talk with PCAD about possibly paying for an additional officer.

• Continuing to fund street maintenance ($1 million).

Council has made the Street Department a high priority the last several years. If approved in the budget, this would mark the fourth year in a row the Street Department has received $1 million. Superintendent Jeff McKinney said the department’s new process of reclamation, used in partnership with Pettis County, has been successful on numerous test areas, leaving lots of happy citizens. He said the department plans to continue using that process in 2017 on 43 blocks in the northeast section of Sedalia on streets in “deplorable conditions.”

• City employee pay raises of 2 to 4 percent ($200,000 to $400,000).

• Two additional SPD officers ($96,000).

Council chose to place hiring two officers as a short-term goal, with the goal of hiring an additional three over the next few years.

• Salary correction for SPD officers ($3,000).

• SFD capital improvements ($24,000).

Harrell also talked about SFD’s need for new safety equipment, as they are experiencing equipment failures due to some parts being 32 years old and no longer being manufactured for replacement. Breathing apparatuses are also reaching their recommended lifespan.

• Streetscape engineering ($100,000).

The city is close to finally completing the downtown streetscape project, with one small portion left to finish. Simmons said the work will most likely not be done until 2018, but to get grant funding for the project the city needs to pay for engineering work in 2017.

• Waste water projects ($638,200).

• Land purchase of 120 acres for economic development use ($780,000).

City Administrator Gary Edwards and Simmons spoke about a pricey but important topic — purchasing more land to be able to offer to potential new industries wanting to locate to Sedalia.

“Two years ago Sedalia lost a major nationally-recognized industry,” Edwards explained. “It would’ve brought a large number of jobs and many millions into the community as far as investment goes, but we didn’t get it because we did not have the land with rail access. With that same project, the state was ready to give to us $15 million in grant dollars for infrastructure improvements, that included sewer and water, mostly streets.”

Edwards added that over the last two months, Sedalia lost two potential businesses that would have created more than 500 well-paying jobs because the city doesn’t have an available rail-served site, according to Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County Executive Director Jessica Craig.

He said this is more of a long-term goal and a purchase probably wouldn’t happen quickly, but the city needs to be able to assemble more land options with various infrastructure abilities.

After the top 10 priorities, other top short-term goals included:

• Reconstructing the Third Street parking lot ($100,000).

• SCBA replacement for SFD ($300,000).

• Sewer collection system projects ($529,905).

• Pay compensation study for city staff ($28,000). The last one was conducted in 2011 and a study is recommended every five years.

• SFD thermal imaging camera ($11,000).

• Sidewalk projects ($175,000).

• New technology, such as a license plate reader, for SPD ($20,000).

• New street lights on a portion of Winchester Drive ($100,000).

By Nicole Cooke

[email protected]

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.

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