OMAK The need to replace old and outdated equipment is taking a higher precedence than replacing the two Omak police officers who were laid off last year as the city hashes out its 2014 budget.
Police Chief Larry Schreckengast outlined his proposal to replace two vehicles and other equipment during a budget workshop Tuesday at City Hall, 2 N. Ash St.
The police chief said much of the department’s equipment is old and outdated.
“We can’t put it off any longer,” he said.
Schreckengast also proposed increasing the vehicle maintenance fund up to $7,000 to cover the cost of repainting one of the existing vehicles.
Schreckengast and members of council called that particular vehicle and its damaged exterior an “embarrassment.”
He said next year he plans to address the need to bring in more officers.
“We don’t have the manpower,” Schreckengast said.
He said the rule of thumb is for a city to have at least 1.89 officers per 1,000 residents; currently Omak has 1.26 officers per 1,000 residents and about half that when considering the number of visitors in town, he said.
Fire Chief Kevin Bowling is also looking to replace some equipment, including his command vehicle.
Bowling’s proposed budget for his department includes $55,000 for a new Chevrolet Suburban to replace his 2000 model, which has had numerous mechanical problems.
“It has been a lemon,” he said. “It’s just been one thing after another.”
The improving budget numbers come partially as a result of construction in town, including the city’s sewer renovation and the building of medical facilities on the north end of town.
The construction has resulted in an increase of about $90,000 in sales tax revenue, City Administrator Ralph Malone said.
Another budget workshop will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, with a focus on the Public Works Department.