During its meeting Tuesday, the Meridian City Council approved the city’s fiscal year 2022 budget which amounts to $185,190,966.
Council members also voted on several major items within the budget, including a fire station, police precinct, and LED street lights.
Transit and lights
Council approved $575,647 in funds for Valley Regional Transit, which will go toward programs such as Rides2Wellness, Harvest Transit, assessments, and local limited and express service.
The amount approved Tuesday was less than originally proposed. Mayor Robert Simison said the cost will be less because service won’t start as quickly as first hoped.
“This does come with a three-month delay in the service,” Simison said. “That’s why it is less because it’s for nine months of service, not 12 months. With COVID I think that they’re not interested in starting around at the time where people may not be interested in riding. But at least from a budgetary standpoint, that’s what we’re getting. The cost then goes down, the service went down.”
Another $375,000 will go toward converting city streetlights to LED. City officials say this amount will move the project forward quicker than some past discussions had planned.
“The primary focus of accelerating it is to capture some savings, some significant savings, and basically it pays for itself by doing so quicker,” councilman Joe Borton said.“So it’s better for the environment and in cost savings to the taxpayers long term so very prudent addition to the budget.”
Precints and fire stations
Following the transit and streetlight approvals, there were two police precincts on the agenda. The first was the $4.5 million Police Precinct Northwest, which the council swiftly passed.
Police Precinct Southeast was also on the agenda. However, with zero impact fees available and the idea that the city could be ‘cutting corners’ to complete the project on the given timeline, the council voted to remove it from the budget.
The precinct was budgeted at $6.5 million.
“There’s no reason to proceed with… the second precinct at the same time,” Borton said. “The comments are not to negate all the positives that can come from as discussed at the prior council meetings and nothing’s quite frankly changed.”
Borton said tackling just one new precinct is the right move, right now.
“One of the large reasons, I’m not supportive of this and wasn’t previously is, I think we can and should celebrate Precinct One. I think we’re doing something very big and new and exciting for our community for the very first time to expand our police services outside of our main station.”
Council members also approved $6,578,900 for the construction of Fire Station 7 in NW Meridian. The council said they felt the station was needed.
Another project, Fire Station 8 in South Meridian garnered a lot of debate. Half the council members believed the station is needed now while the other half felt it was rushed.
The council tied 3-3 on whether to build fire station eight, with Simison breaking the tie and voting in favor.
Afterwards, Borton voiced his frustration to the mayor.
“Frankly I would have hoped that if half your council wasn’t supportive that you take pause as well,” he said.
Ever since fire stations 7 and 8 were first proposed to council, much of the conversation surrounded a need to speed up response time.
“I had the exact same impression as council president (Treg) Bernt for about the response times in the center of our city, that they’re not that much different than the response times in the periphery,” council member Jessica Perreault said. “…What I would like to see investigated before we make a decision about station eight is that we investigate: is there any way that we can improve the services with the existing facilities that we have?”
Next up, legal will write up an ordinance for approval to make the budget official.