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City approves $7.3 million budget

The Okemah City Council held a public hearing on Monday for those who wanted to ask questions about the budget for fiscal year 2018-2019. No public appearances were made during that meeting. In the regularly scheduled City Council meeting held immediately after, the Council approve the budget for a total of $7,325,215.
Mayor Mike Fuller asked the councilmen how they felt about the updated budget. Vice Mayor Wayne Bacon asked if some of the money for the streets was coming from the bank accounts. City Manager Bert Robison said that it was and it had been budgeted so they had to spend it. He stated anything turned into the State had to be spent within the fiscal year and the last time any money was actually budgeted for streets was 2008 when $235,000 was spent. He said he could not find where it was budgeted after that.
Fuller asked about the $153,000 in streets. Robison said that was for regular maintenance, payroll and supplies. The money to redo the streets was budgeted in capital improvements in the amount of $500,000.
Fuller also asked about the animal shelter budget of $145,000 and if Robison still felt like they could finish the project with that amount. Robison said yes and that he had spoken to some local contractors and will piecemeal the project out.
The budget for code enforcement was discussed. The $69,425 budget includes administrative costs and the money to bid out to have yards mowed when residents fail to do so. Robison said that some money was brought in through fines.
The council then began discussing the police department’s budget of $766,702 plus $102,900 in capital improvement. Police Chief Ed “Skeeter” Smith addressed the council. He agreed that the budget is more than other departments, however, the other departments only have eight hour shifts. Smith reminded the council that the police department operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week. So it makes sense that their budget is three times the budget of the other departments.
He said currently they have eight officers and only six cars. They have to borrow vehicles from the fire department, emergency management and code enforcement during parades and events to make sure the attendees stay safe.
He reminded the council that besides, he believes, Weleetka Police Department, they are the only agency in the county that works around the clock. He said money is tight and most agencies are unable to operate that many hours due to budget constraints.
When asked about vehicles, he informed the council that he only has one that is close to 100,000 miles and it is a 2009 Chevy Tahoe. He said it is holding up better than the cars did and that he can get a few more years out of it. He told the council that usually once a vehicle reaches 100,000 miles it is worn out but switching to the Tahoes has saved some money because they hold up much longer.
Smith stated he runs the department as cost effectively as he can. He also said he has a great group of officers right now that work very hard and that Okemah is very blessed to have them.
Fuller asked for what purpose the capital improvement money was requested. Robison said it was for two cars, new vests and computers. Smith stated he had asked for radios as well but would try to get other funding to purchase those.
Loren Aldridge said that they must prioritize where the limited funds are spent and if he had to choose between streets and public safety, that he would choose safety every time.
Aldridge made the motion to accept the budget as presented for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Bacon seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously with a 4-0 vote. Anthony Landers was absent.

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