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Budget Discussions Begin at Des Plaines City Hall

Aldermen, city staff discussed overtime pay for city workers, removing trees infested with Emerald Ash Borer, remodeling city council chambers and more on Wednesday.

For the third consecutive year, Des Plaines’ proposed budget includes a zero percent tax levy. City council and City of Des Plaines staff reviewed a variety of expenses related to the general fund at the first of three annual budget hearings at city hall on Wednesday.

The discussion about the 2013 budget covered city staff, the police and fire departments, public works and engineering department, information technology department, emergency management agency, police and fire commission and other city services.

A copy of the City of Des Plaines 2013 proposed budget is on the city’s website. Here are a few of the items, with page numbers, that impelled discussion at the meeting.

 

Council Chambers Remodeling, $395,000, Page 155

The request form includes $4,000 to replace ceiling speakers, $55,000 to install new carpeting and replace the wooden audience pews with interlocking chairs, $160,000 for video and audio equipment, a new council member and city staff seating area for $23,000, complete room remodel for $123,000 and new lighting system for $30,000.

City Manager Michael Bartholomew said this was included in the budget for council members to choose whether to do complete all, some or none of the recommended upgrades.

Seventh Ward Alderman Dan Wilson requested more information on the cost of only replacing the video equipment.

Third Ward Alderman and Finance Committee Chairman Matthew Bogusz tabled the city council chambers remodeling budget item until the budget hearing on Oct. 30.

 

Public Works and Engineering Work Order Software, $33,500, Page 139

Tim Ridder, assistant director of public works and engineering, said the new software would give the department the ability to track all calls and work orders, plot them on a map, and create an integrated record for maintenance completed on fire hydrants, sewers, parkway trees, sidewalks, signage and more.

In the budget request form there is $25,000 for the software, $6,500 for a virtual server and license and $2,000 for a server license renewal.

Fifth Ward Alderman James Brookman said an annual cost of nearly $10,000 to maintain the program seemed high.

 

Tree Removal Due to Emerald Ash Borer, $200,000, Page 152

In last year’s budget $200,000 was planned for tree trimming. In the 2013 budget, public works and engineering is proposing an additional $200,000 for the removal of parkway trees infested with the Emerald Ash Borer, for a total of $400,000 for contracted work.

Brookman said he would rather see the public works and engineering department proceed slower in the process of removing the trees in order to have more of the work completed by city staff, and reduce cost.

Tim Oakley, director of public works and engineering, said they can identify when a tree has been infested by looking at its canopy, and then it’s only a matter of time before it dies. He said the department has a plan to remove the problematic trees.

 

Skunk Removal, $15,000, Page 188

The skunk population in Chicago suburbs has been on the rise. This budget item stated it was for the capture and relocation of the animals.

Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten said that must be an error because it was illegal to release the skunks, once they are caught. They must be put down, Walsten said.

 

Police Training at Northwestern University, $12,000, Page 176

Bartholomew said one of the things they asked of William Kushner, the new police chief in Des Plaines, was to train at least three staff members to be his replacement, when he leaves the department. One supervisor would attend staff and command school for the year for $12,000, and the process would continue annually, according to the request form.

 

NIPSTA Membership, $3,000, Page 138

The Northern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy is a training facility for police officers, firefighters and public works employees in Glenview. Ridder said the city has sent employees to the facility to learn how to operate snow plows and other equipment in the past, and the annual membership will give the city a discount on training costs.

Aldermen asked city staff to evaluate whether the city would have been at a net loss or net gain, had it purchased the $3,000 membership for the past year, and get back to them with the result of the analysis.

 

City Warning Siren, $28,046, Page 195

This will be the last of 11 sirens to be replaced, said Deputy Police Chief Mike Kozak. He said the replacement of this siren had been delayed in year’s past due to budget constraints, but it really needed to be replaced now.

 

Fire Department Access Key Boxes, $245,280, Page 213

Technology for special boxes that contain building keys for the fire department to access in case of an emergency, also known as Knox Boxes, has changed. The request form includes $145,350 to replace one third of the old boxes on buildings and residences in the city as part of a three year plan to replace all the boxes. It also includes $85,500 to install the new boxes and $14,430 for coded entry key vaults for fire department vehicles.

Bartholomew told council members the old boxes would not conform to the International Fire Prevention Code.

Brookman asked what the total estimated cost was for the three-year changeover. Bartholomew said the total would be approximately $692,000.

Brookman said he liked the idea of the new key boxes, but the city should look at alternatives for funding the upgrades before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Aldermen asked Bartholomew why the city should bear the whole cost of the upgrades, when the old boxes would be grandfathered in under the new fire code.

Bartholomew said the reason why it was included in the budget was city council had indicated they wanted Des Plaines to be business-friendly. The city manager said the council could direct that the cost be split with business owners.

Bogusz suggested anyone applying for business license may be required to install the new Knox Boxes. Bartholomew and Fire Chief Alan Wax said they understood the direction the council was giving them on the item, and would provide another plan.

 

New Legal Counsel, $190,000, Page 80

Long-time city attorney Dave Wiltse retired this year. Des Plaines hired the law firm Holland and Knight to represent them in legal proceedings. The retainer for general counsel is approximately $14,000 per month, Bartholomew said.

Additionally, $110,00 is budgeted for outside special counsel billings and $150,000 for outside counsel for labor and employment, according to the proposed budget.

 

Next Budget Hearings

Budget hearings will also be held at city hall on Oct. 18 and Oct. 30. On Oct. 18 non-general fund budget items will be discussed, including tax increment financing funds, or TIF’s, motor fuel tax fund, community development block grant fund, grant-funded projects, gaming tax fund, debt service, capital projects, equipment replacement, IT replacement, water and sewer fund, city-owned parking, Metra-leased parking, risk management, health benefits and the library.

The final budget hearing, Oct. 30, is scheduled as a final review.

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