Centralia Fireside Guard

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Midterm voters give additional funding for Centralia’s police, fire departments

Posted on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 4:03 pm

One upshot of this year’s mid-term elections is that Centralia’s voters approved the proposed half-cent public safety sales tax. It passed 865 to 735.

That put a smile on the face of Tim Grenke, their mayor.

“I am very pleased with last night’s results,” he said. “The voters’ decision to support their public safety

Centralia's voters in action.

Centralia’s voters in action.

professionals says good things about the city.”

City Administrator Heather Russell said the sequence needs to be confirmed with the Missouri Department of Revenue, but she thinks the sales tax will go into effect January and the city will begin receiving money from the DOR in February. “The sales tax money is collected by the state and they send it back to us.”

Grenke said it would enable the CPD to budget for having two full-time police officers on duty, 24-7, the fire department to purchase newer fire-fighting gear and both departments to get more of the training they want and need.

Russell addressed one voter concern regarding where the funds would go and how they would be split.

“We are waiting to hear from our auditor on that, she said. “The park department and transportation taxes have their own funds. This one will likely have its own too.”

She said the revenue would likely be a “75-25 split, with 75 percent going to the police department. They are a full-time 24-7 agency, whereas the fire department is volunteer-staffed.”

Russell said that does not mean the fire department will not see the financial benefits soon. “They will be able to get moving on their turn-out gear,” she said, referring to the heavy fire and weather resistant helmets, boots coats and overalls the firefighters wear. “Much of that stuff is old and is past replacement date. It is an immediate issue that needs to be addressed.”

Bob Bias, chief of the Centralia Police Department initially released a statement to the Fireside Guard, which said, in part: “I want to thank you the voters for supporting your local public safety agencies. It means a lot to me personally to know we have the amount of support we do from you the citizens, again thank you…”

Bias and Grenke confirmed there are, in fact, plans for the anticipated revenue from the sales tax.

“I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing what others said,” Grenke said. “But there were plans in place, some just didn’t agree with them.”

Bias said high on his department’s list were in-car cameras and body cameras for the officers.

“The department has plans for the funds as well as takes seriously its obligation to spend that money for the safety of the city and in a responsible manner,” Bias said. “Initially we are looking at body cameras, in car cameras and a new animal holding facility and its location.”

Bias said Department of Agriculture regulations might govern where the new facility would be located and how it would be built.

“Anyway, we are going to start the city budgeting process on all of this pretty soon,” he said.

Grenke and Russell also discussed what the defeat of Proposition D meant for the city.

“We had not budgeted for it,” Russell said. “The proposition’s failure just means we won’t get the money, we will just have to keep on doing what we’ve been doing to fund future street projects.”

With the failure of the proposed state-wide gas tax, intended to fund highway and road improvements, along with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Grenke said the city would still follow its plans for street improvements.

“It would have nicely supplemented the funding for our road repairs and street overlays,” he said. “The extra $60,000 a year would have helped. We did not make plans around getting that money, but it certainly would have eased the taxpayers’ burden and helped our streets program.”

Regarding voter turnout, In Boone County, 70.3 percent of the registered voters participated.

In Audrain, 64.48 percent of the registered voters participated.

Both county’s voters beat the state average of 57.9 voter participation.