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Helper council members, mayor discuss budget constraints



By Sun Advocate

Helper Councilman Tony Gonzales looks through a night vision lens. Police Chief George Zamantakis brought the new law enforcement equipment to the city council meeting last week. Zamantakis explained the importance of the devices and the role the equipment plays in the field of law enforcement.

Budget woes continue to plague many cities throughout the state and Helper is no exception.
During a regularly scheduled city council meeting June 19, the council voted to adopt the proposed budget for fiscal year 2003-2004.
The council members agreed that there is little that can be done to relax the budget contraints facing Helper.
The city council members and mayor also realized that the city’s funds will require strict monitoring when it comes to spending.
“I’m afraid that things are going to be tight for the next several years. In order to make things work out, we must watch revenues closely and screen spending regularly,” advised mayor Joe Bonacci.
The governing panel also discussed the importance of monitoring overtime at each city department.
“We can’t budget overtime. It’s just a matter of keeping it under control and make sure to justify any overtime hours,” explained Bonacci.
The council agreed to monitor the hours regularly. But the Helper officials admitted that overtime is not something that can be eliminated.
“We have already reduced these hours at the street department by having crews hang the flags Friday afternoon and take them down on Monday morning for holidays,”explained Councilman Tony Gonzales.
“We can’t avoid overtime when there is a funeral on a Saturday. The parks department will have to go up and cover the graves. Also when there is an emergency of some kind such as a water line break, but I don’t think it will be too hard to monitor the extra hours,” pointed out Gonzales.
The newly adopted budget will go into effect July 1.
Following the budget discussion, Helper Police Chief George Zamantakis approached the city council regarding the appointment of a sergeant at the Helper law enforcement department.
Zamantakis explained that, currently, the city’s law enforcement department is operating without a sergeant.
The primary job of a police sergeant is to fill in for the chief when the agency’s head is not on duty for a day.
“Right now, we have an officer in charge program. This allows us to give the officer an extra $10 a day when they take over this role. To be fair, we alter officers. In order to have consistency, we need to have a sergeant appointed,” advised the police chief.
The only concern raised by the city council at the meeting was whether there would be enough money in the newly adopted budget to cover a salary increase if a sergeant were appointed at the Helper City Police Department.
“As long as the appointment does not alter the budget, I think that this would be a good move that would increase morale and would provide more consistent leadership,” stated Bonacci.
City recorder Jona Skerl advised the board that the proposed 33 cent rate increase would not affect the city’s newly adopted budgetary guidelines.
Therefore, the city council agreed to endorse Zamantakis’ request to promote Officer Ralph Vose to the rank of police sergeant beginning July 1.
Recently, the city police department received a grant to purchase night vision equipment.
The council members looked at the law enforcement equipment while the police chief explained how the instruments work.
“Several months ago we received a grant for $9,400 to purchase this equipment. We just got it in and will be able to track suspects in the dark. This is a valuable tool for law enforcement that we would never be able to purchase without the help of a grant,” explained the police chief.
The department received two night vision lenses; a monocular lens and a binocular system. Each is military issued and are undetectable by any standard tools.
“This will allow us to look for suspects without them locating us. These lenses are also equipped with thermal sensing,” Zamantakis explained.
In October 2001, a pair of double homicide suspects fled to the Carbon County area.
The two men led local law enforcement officers on a foot chase which lasted for nearly 24 hours.
Zamantakis explained that the law enforcement agencies in the county worked jointly to locate the suspects throughout the night and because no police department in the county had night vision equipment, the Utah Highway Patrol had to lend devices from a Salt Lake location to Carbon County officials.
“This is a prime example of how this equipment would have assisted in a police investigation. We no longer have to rely on other agencies for their technology,” stated the police chief.
The council agreed that this was an important addition to the police force and encouraged the chief to apply for grants in the future to purchase equipment.

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