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Tight budget may hamper fire, police

January 30, 2002

Deepa Bharath

NEWPORT BEACH -- Budget cuts during the next fiscal year may not hurt

the city's police and fire departments too much, but they could keep them

from buying equipment and emergency vehicles, officials say.

Next year's budget is expected to be tight because of the recent

economic downturn and anticipated cuts in state funding, said Newport

Beach City Manager Homer Bludau.

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The police and fire departments make up about half of the city's

budget every year, he added.

"We're still trying to find out what their needs are," Bludau said.

"We're still trying to set priorities."

He said next year's budget will probably be conservative as city

officials take into account "a worst-case scenario."

"Maybe things will look up next year," Bludau said. "But it's always

better to have extra money than otherwise."

The budget process has not begun as far as the Police Department is

concerned, said Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Shulman.

"I know that every year we put in requests for equipment," he said.

"But we never know what we'd get or not get."

He said officers will soon begin the process of putting together a

wish list that will be passed on to city officials.

The Fire Department is hoping to get at least one of its antiquated

fire engines replaced, said Newport Beach Fire Chief Tim Riley.

The department needs three new fire engines, he said.

"Many years ago, we had a different policy about updating our fire

engines," Riley said. "It used to be that we needed to replace them only

once in 20 years."

But Newport Beach did not run medical services then, and with the

increasing number of medical aid calls that the department handles today,

the wear and tear on the equipment is much greater, he said.

"We'd need to replace them every 10 years now," Riley said.

One of the reserve engines is about 20 years old and the other two

have passed the 10-year mark, he said.

"I know we will have the oldest engine replaced," he said. "But right

now, it's uncertain whether the other two will be replaced."

Also, the opening of two new fire stations in the last year -- in

Santa Ana Heights and in the newly annexed area of Newport Coast -- have

put additional pressure on the equipment, Riley said.

Bludau said city officials are expected to submit the budget to the

City Council for approval in either late May or early June.

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