Chief says mayor's plan makes Baker more dangerous
BAKER - Baker City leaders are pitted against each other in a faceoff over a budget that is $800,000 short. Mayor Harold Rideau proposed a few fixes, but they're controversial.
Baker has been tapping into reserves from previous years' surplus, but by now the account is running dry. Some positions might not be filled and people will be asked to foot the bill to close the gap.
Rideau didn't mince words when discussing the main issue facing his city.
"We just don't have any money. We're broke," Rideau said. "We're just cutting back. Everybody cutting, departments cutting."
The deficit of $800,000 could be slashed to $200,000 if city water and sewer bills are increased. Either way, more will need to be done to balance the budget.
"My goal is to accomplish this without laying employees off," Rideau said.
To save money Rideau plans a hiring freeze, leaving vacancies open at the police department and also not replacing positions when people quit or retire.
Police Chief Mike Knaps is fighting the plan, which he said will make the city more dangerous for the public and for police to work in. Knaps is calling on the city council and citizens to step up and oppose those plans.
"It's time to stand up and say the last thing we want affected is public safety," Knaps said. "Police need to be out here protecting our streets and homes."
Knaps said he has four vacancies now and another four coming soon.
"This now puts us in a position where we only have two cops at a time patrolling the city," Knaps said. "Totally unacceptable. Totally unsafe."
Everything's being addressed at a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday. Also on Tuesday's agenda is the possibility of raising the water and sewer rates. The surplus a few years ago was $9 million. The mayor said the utility rates going without an increase for so long, as the cost of services went up, played a role in the budget problem.