Westfield police, fire seek more staff in ‘23

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The Westfield police and fire departments are seeking additional manpower for their respective agencies in 2023.

The Westfield City Council met Aug. 31 to discuss the city’s 2023 budget with different department heads during a special session that lasted more than three hours. Each city department head approached the council with their wish list for next year that ranged from new equipment to additional personnel.

Westfield Police Dept. Chief Joel Rush said his department is requesting three new officers next year, in addition to 10 new police vehicles and Taser replacements. An estimated dollar amount on how much three new officers and 10 police vehicles would cost the city was not immediately available.

The Westfield Fire Dept. is also seeking a boost in staffing next year as well. Deputy Fire Chief Jim Roberts approached the council requesting 12 more firefighters that he said would cost $1.4 million because of increased calls for service in Westfield. That figure includes salaries, benefits and associated equipment for those individuals, Roberts said.

The city’s chief of staff, Jeremy Lollar, said the 2023 budget also gives 5 percent across-the-board pay raises to employees. City Council member Cindy Spoljaric asked Lollar how much the 5 percent raises would cost the city, but Lollar said he did not immediately know what that figure was and noted he would get that information to the council.

Lollar refused to provide copies of department head memorandums and the proposed 2023 budget that were given to the council and directed a Current reporter to city spokesman Chris Proffitt. Proffitt also declined to provide those documents after a formal request was made.

“The documents you referenced that were discussed but not (publicly) shared, are expressions of opinion and speculative, communicated for decision-making. Consequently, we are not releasing them,” Proffitt said. “This is simply the initial budget meeting, and there will be many revisions.”

Proffitt, who oversees communications for the city, also received criticism from City Councilman Troy Patton during his budget proposal request. Patton blasted Proffitt for his work, saying he doesn’t help the council and described him as being a “mouthpiece for the mayor.”

Proffitt told the council that he’s seeking $25,000 next year for a part-time employee in his department, but Patton told Proffitt directly that he wouldn’t support increasing his budget.

“I would not increase this budget one cent over last year,” Patton said. “That’s my recommendation.”

Spoljaric also said she believed there are opportunities to provide citizens with information they need to know regarding things happening in the City of Westfield. She added that she believes that isn’t currently being done as it should be.

“We want to be able to provide information,” she said.

The council is expected to have a public hearing Oct. 10 regarding the proposed 2023 budget, which is about $59 million, on Oct. 10. Council members could adopt the budget at its Oct. 24 meeting, according to the city.

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