Waiting For A Decision

By: Laura Gibbs
By: Laura Gibbs

On a night like Monday night’s snowstorm, the Rockford Fire Department is on the run. From weather related accidents, to a fire, or even someone whose sick, the equipment is getting a workout.

It's the fire trucks, ambulances, squad cars and dump trucks that are at the center of the city's budget battle. Monday night, the Rockford City Council decided to lay over a decision on the 2004 budget.

Money is what's causing concern. In order for the Public Works department and Rockford Police and Fire to get new equipment, the city would borrow money, $4.5 million to be exact. It's that dollar amount that has some alderman pushing back the vote.

This fire on 8th Street is just one of the 18,000 runs a year by the Rockford Fire Department. Now Rockford Fire Chief Bill Robertson says these calls are wearing down equipment. In fact some fire trucks are 22 years old, that’s double the life expectancy.

Since December, Rockford alderman have been reviewing Mayor Doug Scott's budget proposal. A $4.5 million bond issue would purchase new equipment. For the fire department, that means 4 new fire pumpers and 2 new ambulances.

But a bond has to be paid back. Finding money in such a cash strapped time is what prompted 1st Ward Alderman Bob Green to ask to hold off on a final budget vote.

The Rockford Fire Department is also not waiting to find out the outcome. Plans are in the works to apply for a state loan of $250,000. This is a loan that came out through the State's Fire Marshall in which this would be a 20-year interest free loan. The budget has to be passed by the end of March.

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