Budget balloons

It’s not often that Andy Holcombe and Steve Bertagna end up together on a City Council vote, but it happened Tuesday night (June 20), following a couple of hours of entertaining political theater.

The vote was on a motion by Ann Schwab—seconded by Maureen Kirk, who is running against Bertagna for county supervisor—to bust the council’s tentative budget approved June 6 and hire three new firefighters, at a cost of $325,000, to man a ladder truck.

The council had just heard from Dave Main, representing the firefighters’ union, who’d said operating the truck without a full staff was unsafe, even dangerous. He’d also asked the council to “trust” the firefighters to “work this out,” alluding to the possibility of negotiating further during contract bargaining.

Schwab and Kirk wanted to trust the firefighters; Holcombe and Bertagna wanted to wait 60 days for City Manager Greg Jones to tell them where the money would come from.

“I’m voting against it,” Bertagna insisted, “but not because I’m against filling the positions.”

In the end Mayor Scott Gruendl and Larry Wahl—who’d wanted to fund two additional police officers as well—joined Schwab and Kirk to forge a 4-2 vote, with Dan Herbert absent.

Otherwise, the council approved two budgets 6-0, one for the city and the other for the city’s redevelopment area.

Jones had asked for two significant changes to the RDA budget. He wanted $4 million put back for future fire stations as part of an agreement with the county, and he wanted $2.5 million put in for design work on a new police station. The council had cut a $17 million allocation for the station on June 6, but Jones wanted to keep the station project moving along.

Together, the items upped RDA expenditures from the $23 million approved June 6 to nearly $30 million, but the budget passed 6-0 with little discussion.