Syracuse Holds Budget Hearing, Approves Ambulance Purchase

Syracuse – The public was given a chance to speak out on the proposed 2020 Town of Syracuse budget Tuesday night but no one had any comments.

The council opened up a public hearing but with no comments quickly closed the hearing and took no action on the budget.

The total budget is $4,173,220 with an additional $782,520 in economic development tax and Tax Increment Finance funds. The town is expecting a tax levy of $2,163,758 and a tax rate of $1.02 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The proposed 2020 budget is $103,640 more than the current year’s budget of $4,069,580. There was an increase in the general budget, which includes the town manager’s budget, the clerk-treasurer’s budget and the police budget to $2.09 million from last year’s $1.97 million but a large decrease in the local road and street budget, which was $200,000 last year and $85,000 this year.

The budget will be adopted at the next council meeting on Oct. 15.

Ambulance Purchase Approved

Turkey Creek Township Fire Chief Mickey Scott received approval from the town council to purchase a demo ambulance from Pen Care of Niles, Ohio, at a cost of $235,528. Scott told the council one of their ambulances was involved in an accident on August 26 while transporting a patient. He said the ambulance was running with lights and sirens when it was T-boned.

“It could’ve been worse-it spun the ambulance a complete 180 and luckily it didn’t roll,” Scott said.

He said this left the town in a bind with only one good ambulance. He said the department has two older ambulances – one seven years old and one 11 years old that are in and out of the shop. He said he was able to borrow an ambulance from a neighboring department. He checked later and realized there were 15 calls where both ambulances were out at the same time.

Scott said they will be able to get this demo ambulance by mid-October and if they wrap it instead of painting it they can save time and $15,000.

If the ambulance involved in the accident can be repaired insurance should pay for it and if it is totaled they’ll have to get a new one with insurance paying a large portion of the cost. Scott said it takes a year to get a new ambulance however so this is needed in the interim.

Council Member Larry Siegel pointed out that Scott planned to purchase a new ambulance in 2020 anyway so this is just moving that purchase up.

With the cost of a cot, the wrap on the vehicle and radios it’ll be a total of $298,231.20.

Smoke-Free Syracuse Presentation

Heidi Baker, of Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition, gave a presentation to the council about making Syracuse a smokefree air and tobacco free community.

She said the state law passed in 2007 exempted bars and veteran’s clubs from being smoke free, leaving it to cities and towns to set expectations. The coalition would like to see tobacco-free bars, clubs and parks.

Baker said this is particularly important in Syracuse because of the lake and how tobacco affects lakes, streams, fish, plants and wildlife. Baker handed out information that cited a study done stating that one cigarette butt in one liter of water is lethal to half the fish exposed to the contaminated water.

In answer to one of the council member’s question, Baker said they are including e-cigarettes and vaping in this ordinance that would make Syracuse a smoke free air and tobacco free community. She said Syracuse would be the first town in Kosciusko County to enact such an ordinance if they were to decide to go that route and would join other cities like Elkhart, North Webster, South Bend and Fort Wayne.

Council members said they would look at the material and take it under consideration.

In Other Business:

• Approved installing a seawall at a cost of $12,350 from Ousley Seawall in North Webster.

• Heard utilities received a railroad crossing grant for $5,502 and will apply again for a Harkless grant.

• Approved purchasing two new radar signs that will be solar at a cost of $7,633 from Radar Sign Co.

• Approved low bid of $129,000 from L.C. United Painting Co. Inc. to coat and paint the north water tank plus any additional work that needs to be done.

• Heard the fire department raised $3,398.18 in a recent MDA boot drive.

• Heard about upcoming parks department programs including A Superhero Academy this Saturday, Harvest Fest on Oct. 12 and an indoor garage sale on Oct. 19.