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Making the city more efficient and customer-friendly, freeing up currently frozen positions and resuming street resurfacing were among the goals of Roanoke Rapids department heads as discussions on next fiscal year’s budget began during a city council work session Tuesday evening.

“Department heads are working very diligently along with the other things they have in providing this information,” City Manager Kelly Traynham said. “We have found in many ways where costs just continue to go up.”

Traynham said the contract agreement for the recent state allocation grant of $3.5 million has been signed by Mayor Emery Doughtie.

Part of those funds from the state will be used to retire the deed of trust for the Roanoke Rapids Theatre. After that the remaining funds will be used for the Kirkwood Adams Community Center roof, the fire alarm system there, and flooring replacement as well as site work at Chaloner Recreation Center and the elevator at city hall. “That represents a lot of major expenses that we were going to be talking about.”

Human resources

Human Resources Director Christina Caudle said her request for a city-wide software update project was actually one that will benefit the entire city. “I feel this is a priority level one. It does impact human resources, finance and payroll but it also touches a lot of other departments my department touches every day but there are a lot of citizen services that can come with some of these software services as well.”

One of the goals is to modernize to meet today’s expectations for employees and the customers the city deals with daily, she said. 

Caudle said there is a citizen service product which would address permitting needs primarily for the planning department but could address everything from renting a parks department facility to reporting potholes. “It really is all-encompassing.”

Caudle said there is a three- to six-month integration window for the project. It includes a full HR and payroll suite. “The overeaching piece is that it’s going to make our organization more efficient. One of these products they’re saying there’s going to be a 68 percent workflow efficiency improvement.”

A complete integration across all departments would be more than $500,000 for the year one cost with a significant drop in year two. After that the cost would be around $160,000 and then $193,000 the following year.

Caudle described the software as a public sector tool. Hyde County is introducing a complete product suite. “The cost is high, yes, but it does make us modern, it keeps us moving 24-7, it makes all of our employees more efficient and also it’s going to help us in five to 10 years to recruit new employees. Like Hyde County is making these decisions now, we will become obsolete if we don’t make the decisions and put these tools in place.”

Caudle also asked for a full-time administrative support person. “I am finding this is critical in this position,” she said, adding that the former HR director had made a similar request in the past. 

The cost of that position with salary and fringe benefits is up to $50,000 a year.

Traynham said the typical process in the city now is that a developer would have to download and print an application. Then they would have to mail it back or bring it to city hall. “The time it would save even contractors, it furthers the economic development opportunities.”

Finance department

Interim Finance Director Tammy Fahey requested two desktop computers, two laserjet printers, a laptop, a check scanner, and a lateral file cabinet.

She said the costs associated with the request are under $10,000.

Planning department

Traynham said it has been a few years since the department has upgraded a vehicle. She asked for a vehicle to keep the fleet the department has more modern.

She said the training budget for the department needs to be adequate so employees can maintain certifications.

Desktop or laptop computers are also needed.

She said the request for the department is around $50,000.

Fire department

“We need a fire truck,” Chief Jason Patrick said. “We actually need two fire trucks.”

Patrick said the department is down one fire truck. 

The red and white truck the department uses is on its last leg. “The guys are running that truck today because the ladder truck is out of service at the shop. We’re one flat tire away from having to borrow a truck from another department. That is priority one for us.”

The department wants to replace a 1997 Yukon that was donated by Dominion Power. The vehicle has 170,000 miles on it. “It’s been good for us but it’s starting to cause us more and more issues.”

Patrick said the department has submitted a grant through the county firefighters association for Viper radios. If the association is awarded the grant the Roanoke Rapids Fire Department would receive about half of the radios that are needed for the agency.

The fire chief said the department would need about 15 portable radios and five mobile units.

Patrick said the fire department is still trying to upgrade the generator at station 1. “The current generator will maybe run your house at home but it will not run that complete station.”

The AC units at station 1 also need replacement, Patrick said. “We’ve been replacing them a few a year but we still have five at station 1 that need replacing.”

The back driveway at station 1 needs repaving.

The estimates for one new fully-equipped fire truck are between $650,000 to $750,000.

The Yukon replacement is estimated at $35,000 to $40,000.

Radios are estimated to cost $79,000 while the generator is estimated to cost $85,000. The AC replacement is estimated at $35,000 and the driveway resurfacing is estimated at $20,000.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation Director John Simeon said he would like to have a parks resource officer to assist with safety at all the city’s facilities. “This is an additional position but when we sit down I will ask Chief (Bobby) Martin to also join me because it’s going to be law enforcement with parks and recreation.”

That cost is estimated at $38,000 which mirrors the starting salary for a police officer.

Simeon said the AC chiller at T.J. Davis needs to be replaced. “Right now the unit is on backup mode. It could go out at any day. It could last for six months. It could last for a year but when it’s on backup mode we know it’s definitely going to fail at some point.”

That cost is estimated at $45,000.

The parks director requested that the T.J. Davis supervisor position be unfrozen. That estimated cost is $42,000 with benefits.

Simeon recommended that four of the six tennis courts at Emry Park be demolished. Resurfacing the two remaining courts is estimated to cost $79,500.

He recommended resurfacing one of the Rochelle Park tennis courts at $38,000. 

Simeon said the department would like to replace a 2001 Ford which is failing.

A 2000 Chevrolet vehicle also needs replacing. 

Simeon said the Lloyd Andrews City Meeting Hall needs new Zoom equipment. “We all think that Zoom is here to stay and our Zoom equipment is very antiquated. We do the best we can.”

The cost to upgrade to better Zoom equipment is estimated at $12,000.

He asked to unfreeze the library supervisor position at $39,700 and the Canal Museum program supervisor at $41,600.

Rochelle Park playground equipment needs to be replaced at a cost of $75,000 and Long Park playground equipment needs to be replaced at a cost of $50,000.

Police department

Chief Bobby Martin said one of the biggest needs is a radio system. “As we move forward into the coming years we’re looking at everything becoming regionalized.”

Viper radios were made for emergency management, Martin said, and the signal is phenomenal. “We’re starting to have issues where we’re putting the officers at risk by not having good communications.”

Martin said the department needs 50 portable and 50 mobile radios. The estimated cost is $325,000.

There is the need for patrol cars. Martin wants to request eight Dodge Durangos outfitted with in-car cameras. The eight Durangos are estimated to cost $320,000 while the in-car cameras are estimated around $55,888. 

The police chief requested unfreezing all positions. “Right now we have officers that are working their back ends off to cover shifts. I think we would be better served to have a full department that has all our positions opened.”

There are currently two positions frozen within the department. The cost for the patrol officer would be $55,514. A frozen investigator slot is estimated to cost between $41,000 to $42,000 depending on experience and with benefits added would put that salary to around $60,000. “Our biggest thing is recruitment and retention. We want to recruit good quality employees and we want to retain them instead of going somewhere else.”

The police department is also looking at 12 new laptops at $1,000 each.

Public works

Director Larry Chalker requested the following:

$30,000 for a traffic light upgrade at Seventh Street and Park Avenue. Chalker said the light is currently out of compliance.

$445,000 for a vacuum truck to clean out the storm drainages and catch basins.

$240,000 for a trash truck.

$65,000 for a leaf machine.

$200,000 for a knuckle boom.

$100,000 for three pickups to replace three the city received from Pennsylvania DOT before Chalker arrived.

$100,000 for a backhoe. “Out of three of them we only have one dependable backhoe in operation right now. We’ve been holding out.”

In the expense budget Chalker said he was going to ask for $500,000 for street resurfacing. “It’s been almost four years since we’ve resurfaced streets. We’re behind.”

Chalker also said he is requesting to unfreeze four positions in the street department for a total cost with fringes of $170,352.

Chalker’s total proposed capital budget was $1,180,000 and the total for the expense budget was $670,352.