Public safety is a priority for every city, without public safety a city couldn’t function smoothly without constant interruptions such as crimes disrupting a day. Because of public safety it allows average citizens to go through their days without worry.
However, the city of Pueblo appears to struggle to maintain its public safety standards, and it is something that the Pueblo Fire Department and Pueblo Police Department intend to fix this November.
The police and firefighter unions are preparing to campaign this summer to convince Pueblo voters to dedicate tax revenue to their departments.
A half-cent sales tax increase proposal for this November’s ballot is what the fire and police departments are proposing. This would help generate revenue to their departments for the next five years. It will allow both departments to replace the several overused equipment, and maybe fill their current open positions.
However, Pueblo voters may be opposed to another sales tax increase.
Last November, a countywide half-cent sales tax was proposed to support a number of local non-profit organizations, such as the Colorado State Fair and the Pueblo Zoo. All of which have since been given extended funding by the Pueblo County commissioners.
The voters rejected the countywide half-cent sales tax, but if the tax revenue went to fund public safety rather than a handful of nonprofit organizations, would the outcome been different?
City Council has continually stated that public safety is its top priority, giving more than half of the city’s budget toward revenue – about $26 million for the police department, and about $15 million for the fire department.
“We haven’t seen the bill, but I absolutely support the fire department and police department,” said City Council Vice President, Ami Nawrocki when asked whether she supports what the fire and police department is doing.
Despite best efforts, there simply isn’t enough money in the budget for the fire and police department, which doesn’t allow for the two to properly function, as both departments are out of date in equipment and technology.
“Public safety is the priority,” said Fire Capt. Damian Pritts, vice president of Local 3 of the National Firefighters Union, and in order to do improve public safety both the fire and police department both agree that they need new and better equipment.
“I think it’s a smart approach to have a specific approach,” said Nawrocki regarding the fire and police department’s intention to use the revenue gained for equipment.
On average, a basic fire truck can cost an average of $425,000, and each firehouse in Pueblo has one fire truck except for Fire Station #1, which is Pueblo’s largest fire station, and primarily serves the downtown area.
Equipped at this station is the on-duty assistant chief, an engine company, a truck company, a heavy rescue company, the hazardous materials response team, and a rescue boat and raft.
However, these engines require tools to keep them operable, and after so many clocked hours for each truck they need to be replaced, along with the equipment on the trucks such as the hoses in order for the firefighters to do their jobs properly.
The police department is in just as much need as the fire department.
Some of the patrol cars hardly resemble a police car due to fading and chipping paint.
“If you’ve seen our cop cars that alone shows how bad of shape our equipment is in,” said patrol officer Jonathan Adams, who is representing the police department with this initiative.
Adams acknowledged that the police department is behind the times, and as a department they would like to improve their equipment and technology in order to better help the citizens of Pueblo.
“How can we expect people (especially women) to pull over for a police car if it doesn’t look like one,” said Kiera Sena, campaign manager for the fire and police unions.
City Council Representative Chris Nicoll agreed that it is not functional for the police department and fire department to run on out-dated, barely recognizable equipment.
Both departments also deal with being understaffed. If the half-cent sales tax is approved and money is divided, and each might be capable of hiring new firefighters and police officers.
Currently, the fire department has room to fill five positions; while the police department has about 30 positions that need to be filled.
However, the current proposition will only help solve part of the problem both departments face.
“We are still discussing how this is going to work, for we don’t want to hire officers that we only have enough money to pay for five years,” Adams said. .
Safety was the concern of both Pritts and Adams, for they both seemed adamant about using the money they would receive, for the upgrading the tools they use to do their job better. “We see a problem and we want to fix it,” Adams said.
Currently the departments need more than 2,000 signatures from city voters by July 25 for the proposal to make it to the ballot. Pritts and Adams are confident that those signatures will be received, and then it is up to Pueblo voters to decide if they want this sales tax for public safety or not.