June 18--PERRY -- City residents will get a much larger fire department, but they'll be paying for it with a new fee.
With little discussion Tuesday, the Perry City Council approved a new budget that will roughly double the staffing of the fire department. Where once a property tax increase had been proposed, a new fire fee -- starting at $10 monthly per home and business, with adjustments expected -- will cover the costs.
An increased staff is needed to fully man the city's two fire stations. The city opened its second station last year, spreading existing staff and equipment among the two. An additional fire truck is expected to be delivered soon.
The budget holds other departments to roughly the same levels of staffing and service. Perry's general fund budget calls for expenses of $12.3 million.
Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said he is pleased with the budget. Some initial proposals included tax increases or staffing cuts. The approved budget also increases the city's pay plan by 1 percent and its merit program by another 1 percent, giving employees more money.
No property tax increase is expected.
Separately, the City Council passed a change restricting employees from having weapons at their workplace. On-duty police officers are exempted from the policy, which covers guns and state-regulated knives.
The measure was passed without dissent just weeks before a state law is scheduled to go into effect allowing people with gun licenses to bring their weapons into most government buildings that don't have security screenings.
Faircloth said Tuesday that people have been interested in the proposal.
"This item has been sparking interest everywhere I go, mainly with people asking what I'm going to do if someone walks in with a gun," he told other City Council members. "Stare. That's all I can do."
In other business, council members agreed to have the Middle Georgia Regional Commission build the city a newer website. They also voted to abandon part of the right-of-way for Fairview Drive so a developer can try a different road layout that could include a pocket park and the city's first roundabout.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.
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