First city budget debate covers funding needs for Marshal's office
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Columbus City Council started combing through the proposed fiscal budget for 2018.
Some city leaders at Tuesday's review session expressing concern that one public safety agency may not get the funding it says it needs to protect the Fountain City if the mayor's recommendation stands.
The first part of this open debate was looking at ways to keep healthcare affordable for city employees. The next item, however, raised some councilors' eyebrows.
"The [county] marshal's department needs two pursuit vehicles a little more than we need a garbage truck," said Councilor Bruce Huff.
Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman approached the podium in council chambers with several additional fund requests for his department's budget in 2018. Among them, funds to help fill three deputy positions and replace several patrol cars that have exceeded the 100,000-mile mark.
Other councilors also weighed in on the proposed budget's shortfalls in meeting the needs of the Marshal' Office.
"When any public safety department," Councilor Judy Thomas said, "comes to us, and says to us, 'I don't have the proper equipment for the people who are doing the job in my department,' we are facing a safety issue."
"If we need cars, that's a one-time expenditure," Councilor Evelyn Turner Pugh said. "If we need cars, we need cars. It's not like somebody's making this stuff up."
"They're out there serving the community and they are in danger," added Councilor Evelyn "Mimi" Woodson. "Yes, we're in a budget cut, but sometimes we have to look outside the box like we do in our own financial budget."
There is a history of arguments over budgets between Marshal Countryman and the City of Columbus.
Countryman was one of four public officials who filed a lawsuit against Mayor Teresa Tomlinson over a budget dispute.
Council continued its discussion of making room to fund the marshal's office, which currently includes has a proposed allotment of $1.4 million, despite a leaner budget recommendation from the mayor.
These budget reviews will continue well into early summer. Both City Manager Isaiah Hugley and Mayor Tomlinson reminded council during the meeting, they will ultimately decide who gets which funds next year.