Dallas police, fire investigate fee

DALLAS — Dallas Police and Fire & EMS departments will explore implementing a public safety fee to pay for more police officers and firefighters.

The fee would appear on water bills and would vary depending what it paid for. Police Fire Tom Simpson and Fire & EMS Chief Fred Hertel presented the proposal, with a request to conduct a public information campaign before returning to the council with a final recommendation in July.

“We don’t have to have a final decision today on the final way of doing it,” Simpson said. “What we’re looking for is to go out and do some research and explain to folks why we are asking the question and get some feedback we can bring back to the council.”

Discussion of the fee stemmed from budget committee meetings on the proposed 2018-19 city budget. Both departments requested more staff to keep up with the growing number of service calls. Simpson asked for two full-time officers.

“In 1999, we had 19 officers serving a community of 12,000,” Simpson said. “Twenty years later, we have 19 officers serving a community of almost 16,000.”

The budget committee approved transferring about $110,000 to the police department to pay for another officer.

Hertel requested funding for two firefighters, a part-time fire marshal to be shared with Polk Fire No. 1, and moving three flexible-schedule medics to full-time. He said adding two firefighters through a federal grant and budgeting for seasonal firefighters has improved response time.

“Those have gotten our 18-minute response time down to 13:04, 90 percent of the time, so we are making great strides,” Hertel said. “Also, we just completed our ISO rating. I just got it in the mail today and we moved from a four to a three in the city of Dallas. What we are doing is moving us in the right direction.”

Budget committee discussions recognized a need for another method of paying for positions, Simpson said.

He and Hertel presented six options with costs based on the 7,074 customers on the city water system, varying from $8.48 per year, per customer to $57.96 per year, per customer. Simpson said their recommendation is the sixth option, which proposes separate fees for police and fire because with two more officers, the police department will be adequately staffed for the foreseeable future. That may not be true of the fire department. Keeping them separate would allow the fire fee to be increased.

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