Fee forum draws crowd

Community members had several different ways to weigh in on the proposed $4.85 utility fee that would go to pay for two Dallas police officers and two Dallas firefighters.

Both departments posted information and a survey on the city’s website, and printed flyers for public distribution.

A crowd of about 40 people attended a forum at Dallas Civic Center on Thursday.

Information sheets, which each department posted online, were available for attendees. There also was a print out of the Power Point presentation officials planned to present at Monday’s Dallas City Council meeting.

Dallas Fire/EMS Chief Fred Hertel and DPD Lt. Jerry Mott fielded questions at Thursday’s forum.

DPD Chief Tom Simpson had a medical procedure that day, so was not able to attend, Mott said.

Some citizens talked about the nearly $5 fee being too much to squeeze from their limited budgets.

One woman asked if the city could develop a fee structure that allowed for lower-income residents to pay less or have the fee waived.

That is a methodology used by other cities, Hertel said.

“Our feedback is going to city council,” he said. “They will decide a methodology going forward.”

Even if the council approves the fee, there is about a two-month process and opportunities for public input at each stage, Hertel said.

Other residents said while they don’t mind paying the amount, they object to the fee being added to a utility bill. Instead, the issue should go on the ballot for residents to vote on it, they said.

One Dallas resident said he didn’t see Dallas police officers out in the community very often and asked what they were doing.

In addition to the work citizens see police doing, they’re busy writing reports, Mott said.

At present the police department has two officers on duty, minimum. Their target staffing is three per shift, he said.

According the information the police department distributed, 19 sworn officers are serving 15,570 residents of Dallas. That’s the same amount they had in 1999, when the population was less than 12,000.

Mott said officers are “keeping busy” but are not able to be as proactive and as visible as they would like.

Hertel added that officers also often respond to the same emergencies his department does.

City Councilor Micky Garus spoke up during a conversation about putting the issue to vote or allowing councilors, who residents voted for, make the decision.

“I was going to stay incognito, but there are seven of us here and the mayor,” Garus said. “We want to make sure we’re representing your opinions and wants and needs for your community.”

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