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Department heads pitch needs for the upcoming fiscal year

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—As each county department head approached county commissioners with their budget needs at their annual budget retreat, commissioners chairman Bill Sue reminded each of them things would be tight this year.

The county’s new budget method will also require more justification for every line item request, including any consequences if the request is not approved.

According to county manager Marty Lawing, all department heads must submit their budget requests by April 6. Lawing and finance director Ann Hardy will meet with department heads April 1-30, and Lawing will present a recommended budget to county commissioners on May 18.

Study sessions will be from May 26-28, and a public hearing will be on June 1.

Commissioners will vote on the recommended budget on June 15.

Emergency services

Brunswick County’s Emergency Services Department includes emergency medical services, fire and emergency management, emergency communications and the volunteer center.

Brian Watts, emergency medical services director, said county EMS units responded to 13,600 emergencies in 2008—79 percent of which were in less than 12 minutes. EMS revenue was projected to end the year between $350,000-$500,000 more than what was originally budgeted, one of the few bright spots of the three-day budget retreat.

Watts said he wants to replace the EMS division’s monitor/defibrillator units that were purchased in 1999 and are “above their useful life.”

Watts said several units fail testing every month and the units must be replaced at the same time. The total cost for the units would be between $250,000 and $350,000, Watts said, adding he wants to finance the program for five years.

“The next goal is to start our ambulance remount program earlier than anticipated,” Watts explained, which he said would also save money.

The remount program will allow the department to purchase one new ambulance and retrofit an existing ambulance box on a new chassis. The new ambulance has a $123,605 price tag, while the remounted ambulance costs $82,000, saving the county $41,605, he explained.

Other budget requests from emergency services include:

•Develop a countywide intergenerational Community Emergency Response Team made up of retired emergency management professionals and 16-20-year-olds recruited from the county’s schools and the community college. The projected cost is $6,000.

•Develop and maintain a Brunswick County Medical Reserve Corps for $5,950.

Sheriff’s office

Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said the sheriff’s office needs 15 new patrol vehicles, “to replace the ones we’re going to mile out by that time and the equipment associated with that.”

The 15 Dodge Chargers and all the equipment total $488,115.

Ingram also told commissioners he wanted to purchase shotgun racks for patrol vehicles.

“Currently, we have no way of securing those weapons safely in a vehicle,” Ingram said.

Fifty-six vertical shotgun racks would cost $12,320.

Chief Deputy Charlie Miller said the sheriff’s office was recently awarded an $80,000 share from the stimulus plan.

“We’re going to be able to offset a lot of these costs with that money,” Miller said.

Another budget item Ingram requested was a 30 percent grant match for the sheriff’s office ACE team, which would total $69,000.

Ingram says it’s worth the money.

“We think that has been one positive addition to the sheriff’s office,” Ingram said of the four-man Aggressive Criminal Enforcement traffic and DWI enforcement squad.

“One officer actually seized $12,000 just recently enforcing traffic laws associated with drugs,” Ingram said.

The sheriff’s office needs an additional civil deputy due to the increasing amount of home foreclosures, Lt. Mark Trull told commissioners.

“We had 1,000 last year, and we’re right at 300 already this year. We’re maxed out,” Trull said. “There is a program available, which opens up either state or federal funds to social services to pay 64 percent of that position,” Trull said of an additional civil deputy.

“The only new money is probably going to be the grant match for those four officers we already have. I don’t really see a huge increase in any other areas,” Miller said.

Parks and recreation

Parks and recreation director Jim Pryor asked for $2 million to “focus on execution of planned development projects.”

Park projects include Cedar Grove Park, expected to be complete by Aug. 1; Ocean Isle Beach Park, set to be complete by Dec. 1; completion of phase 1 of Brunswick Nature Park by Sept. 1; and completing a parks and recreation comprehensive master plan.