Independence has established a Public Safety Services Review Committee, whose 11 members will spend much of this year studying the city's police, fire and other public safety needs, then recommend a way forward. The city's existing public safety sales taxes expire in 2016.
The City Council established the committee by resolution on Jan. 20 and affirmed its 11 appointments this week.
It will review the existing sales taxes for police and fire department purposes and determine recommendations for their possible expansion or continuation.
The members are city residents and not city employees. Each member of the council appointed one committee member, with four more at-large members determined by a majority Council vote.
The members are Dwight Barnhard (recommended by Chris Whiting), Mark McDonald (Marcie Gragg), Lois McDonald (Curt Dougherty), Roman Davis Sr. (Jim Schultz), Eric Benedict (Roxann Thorley), Jackie Todd (Eileen Weir), Keith Querry (Mayor Don Reimal), Gary Hisch, Laura Dominick, Brad Speaks and Tim Watkins. As the mayor’s appointee, Querry is the committee chairperson.
The committee's tasks are:
• Review the current and future needs for training, equipment, facilities and personnel, as well as maintenance of those, to meet the public needs and demand for effective police and fire protection services.
• Review response times to determine whether they are satisfactory or need improvement.
• Conduct meetings with relevant stakeholders such as citizens, business owners, the EMS provider and public safety personnel for input.
• Make recommendations regarding strategy to inform citizens about public safety needs and funding options, and possible ramifications to services and infrastructure at the end of the current sales tax.
• Should additional funding be recommended, provide recommended ballot language if needed, as well as an outline of an oversight mechanism of the funding for any initiative.
The committee is to have its first meeting before March 1, and will meet at its discretion after that until it provides a report or recommendations at a City Council study session prior to Oct. 31, at which point it will automatically disband. City Manager Robert Heacock will provide necessary staff assistance if needed, including designating of police and fire department liaisons.
The sales taxes for both police and fire were passed by citizen vote, made effective Jan. 1, 2005, and expire Dec. 31, 2016. The police tax has always been 1/8 of one percent, while the fire tax originally was 1/4 of one percent because of immediate equipment and facility needs at the time and was reduced to 1/8 in 2009.