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Mabton continues budget discussions

MABTON - Mabton City Council continued budget discussions at its workshop held this past Tuesday evening.

Each department's "wish list" was discussed last night and, so far, few requests have been denied.

At this point in discussions, Public Works will not get two new trucks, but they will get two new tractors, one that will be used at the cemetery for mowing. Public Works currently borrows the school district mower.

Also approved was a gas welder, which will be used to help modify existing benches in parks, as well as creating new beautification items within the city.

"I like the gas welder," said Councilman Mario Martinez.

"It gives our employees a chance to be creative."

Council has also agreed to budget in $15,000. As it stands, this money would be paid to Grandview for street-sweeping twice a month for six months. But Mayor Velva Herrera is currently trying to find a used sweeper for the same amount that the city could purchase.

"That's going to be a big investment for us and a real benefit to our city," she said.

Public Works' request for a second lowering device at the cemetery was denied, but a new tent to be used there for funerals is still under consideration.

In the Fire Department, spokesman Luke Cussins' request to raise volunteer firefighters on call pay from $4.76 per call to $6 per call has been approved.

Communication is still underway with the Yakima County Sheriff's Office to provide dispatch services to the city. Currently, this service is provided by Sunnyside, but there's a chance that Mabton may be able to save about $10,000 a year by making the switch.

The "minuters," items that alert firefighters to a call, have been approved for purchase; the county is providing eight to Mabton, but Cussins requested that three a year be purchased. The reason behind the switch is because the county just switched to a narrow broadband, which will facilitate more communication.

When it came to police department discussions, a request from council member Angel Reyna sparked a heated debate.

Reyna asked to remove the current wording of "Chief of Police In-House Position" to a "Contracted Position." The reason for this, he said, is that he doesn't feel the city is moving fast enough on setting in place the search for a permanent chief. In that request, Reyna also asked for council members to be able to seek potential costs from various sources for an interim chief.

"I think we're getting into some messes by doing that," said Councilwoman Vera Zavala. At this point, she said she doesn't feel she has the right, nor does she want to, to seek that kind of information. She did make clear the fact that she supports changing terminology to contract, but that it should be up to the Mayor to do the research.

"You challenge me on this constantly," Herrera said to Reyna. "I've done everything you've asked of me. I've done nothing wrong and I've done what the community needs."

Ultimately, council members unanimously agreed to change the position to a contracted one by Jan. 1, because the contract will have a time limit and the search for an in-house police chief will commence, but Herrera will do the research.

The police department's requests for a tazer system, networked laser jet printer, and a fax machine were discussed and agreed upon. But council wants to know who will get the "leather gear" requested by Interim Chief Robert Perales. They will wait on that decision until they find out.

Administrative requests were also approved, but Roy made clear to council that the approval of a fax machine and copy machine funds will only be used as replacements should the current equipment break down. Also still factored in are funds to replace the carpeting in City Hall.

The next budget meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4.

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