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Local News

Riverside Board of Trustees begins budget talks with focus on police vehicles, communications

RIVERSIDE – The Riverside Board of Trustees parsed the details of next year’s budget at their public meeting at Village Hall Thursday night.

The budget plan keeps village spending virtually flat from this year to last year.

“I take a very conservative approach when it comes to budgeting,” Jessica Frances, the village finance director said.

While there was limited discussion on large aspects of the proposed budget, some trustees scrutinized individual items in an effort to spend less money.

Trustee Joseph Ballerine asked for further information on how best to handle the police department's fleet of nine vehicles. 

Police Chief Tom Weitzel said he had looked into trading in two of the department's most used patrol cars, which log an average of 48 miles patrolling Riverside roads per day, while they were still able to get value on the trade-in. 

Ballerine said the village may save money by repurposing the cruisers into non-patrol vehicles that could be used by the village detective or administrative personnel, replacing currently used, aging unmarked vehicles.

Village President Benjamin Sells agreed with Ballerine that more options for replacing the cars should be sought out.

“We need to try to maximize the life that we get out of our vehicles,” Sells said. “Our vehicles are a huge cost to this village, so if there is anything we can do to extend their life it should be done.”

Sells said he wants every village department to make an effort to keep their vehicles running longer.

Trustee Michael Foley concurred.

“I want to get out of the car business,” Foley said. “I think we need to have a policy set in place – for mileage or whether it be age or whether it be the dollar amount we spent on vehicle maintenance – so we know that at this certain time we replace the vehicle.”

Village Manager Peter Scalera said the village tries to determine when the best time is for a car to be replaced.

“We do review all of the vehicles that are in this plan on a year-to-year basis,” Scalera said. “The staff makes an estimate on when the useful life of that vehicle is up.”

Other items in the police department budget were highlighted, including the $35,000 price tag on a new security camera system.

Weitzel said the new system would replace every camera with advanced, web-based models.

Weitzel acknowledged that the cameras that are being replaced are in relative working order, but he said there are several problems with the current set-up, including officer safety. He said without cameras in crucial areas, officers working alone may be overwhelmed by their prisoner.

“If a fight breaks out in our booking room, the only way the dispatch is going to know the officer is in trouble is to watch the video camera and call the other police officers from the road to come and assist him,” Weitzel said.

In addition, the move would bring the village into compliance with several state laws regarding police cameras, including a requirement that cameras in the interview room be able to capture color. The current camera only records black and white.

Foley said he supported the changes.

“I think we have to stay up on technology, especially because of the mandated legislation,” Foley said.

Another village entity to receive a technology upgrade in the proposed budget is the phone system, an improvement that will come at a cost of around $40,000.

“What that will allow us to do is improve phone reliability,” Scalera said. “The phone system that we currently have, we are beginning to experience frequent reliability issues with the equipment.”

Scalera said having the technician come out to repeatedly fix the current system far exceeds the cost of maintaining the new equipment.

Sells said because the new system would have a better voice mail system than the current one, village employees will be able to address resident’s questions sooner.

“You’ll be much more likely to get a human being when you call,” Sells said.

The budget plan will continue to be discussed at future village board meetings and is subject to change before being voted on before the year’s end.

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