Gulfport City Council approved two key public safety resolutions at its Jan. 17 regular meeting.
Council approved a restructuring of the fire department’s personnel chart, adding a firefighter/paramedic position that will be filled in the near future as well as creating the position of deputy chief, which could be filled as soon as the next council meeting after new chief Rene Fernandez was sworn in at this meeting.
“We had to have a chief before we could install a deputy chief at your next meeting,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly told council. “Hopefully we’ll offset some of the huge overtime costs we’ve had by bringing on an additional paramedic.”
A city staff report indicated that the operating budget for the 2022 fiscal year provided for $200,000 in overtime costs, but that amount was exceeded by $124,171. So far in the 2023 fiscal year the overtime costs have reached $89,124 as of this council meeting.
“With the retirement of the long-term fire chief, the overall increase for the positions implemented by the restructuring of the Fire Department is estimated to be an increase of $55,000,” according to the report, which stated that the restructuring would not only be beneficial to the department but also to the city employees and residents.
Council also approved the acquisition of five replacement police vehicles along with associated emergency equipment and in-car video systems with body cameras. The cost is being covered by Penny for Pinellas funds as well as proceeds from the sale of existing police vehicles.
“This acquisition is in accordance with the fleet rotation schedule that has been developed to ensure maximum residual trade value and minimal maintenance costs,” according to a city staff report. “The replacement schedule this year calls for five vehicles assigned to patrol functions.”
Officials noted that only six kinds of vehicles are currently offered for sale in the United States marketed by their manufacturers for police pursuit and emergency response. Staff recommended the Ford Interceptor Utility for patrol operations due to market availability.
“In accordance with council’s direction to consider alternative fueled vehicles, it is noted that Ford offers a hybrid version of the Interceptor Utility, but pricing and performance is not competitive by comparison,” according to the staff report.
The initial acquisition cost of five new vehicles, and associated emergency equipment including lights, sirens, prisoner partitions, video systems and the associated installation, totals $318,559.
Council approved both the fire and police measures unanimously.