December is known as the season of giving — and in Argo, the spirit couldn’t be stronger.

Just in time for Christmas, Chief James Downing and Captain Glenn Wells asked the board to approve an additional 9 percent pay cut in their salaries in lieu of imposing the cut on their two youngest police officers.

“I believe both of these gentlemen need to be commended for the unselfish deed of volunteering to give up an additional 9 percent pay to take care of these officers,” councilman Bill Rutledge said.

Last month, the city of Argo imposed a 9 percent pay cut on all members of the town’s fire and police departments, and the city council took voluntary pay cuts, as well, in an effort to help remedy the city’s financial problems.

During a series of discussions about budget remedies, Downing expressed concern over cutting his officers — even as far as volunteering to cut his own pay to protect his men.

By taking an additional pay cut, Downing and Wells made good on their promise, protecting the lowest-earning members of their force.

A 9 percent cut in the chief and captain’s salaries is a higher dollar amount than would be generated by cutting the officers in question. The additional funds generated by the arrangement will be deposited into the city’s general fund, for the council to decide where the funds should be spend — possibly for the police department once again.

The measure passed 4-1, with councilman Bill Leake voting no, “only because I voted no on the budget originally.”

Lone ambulance to be sold

In additional money-saving measures, the city of Argo is in the process of selling its only ambulance as surplus equipment.

The ambulance, a 2001 E350 Wheelcoach model, has not been used on a call in over a year, according to Fire Chief Mike Platts. It has only been driven 42,000 miles over the last 10 years, and is started once or twice per month to get drugs from the hospital or brief highway use to keep it moving.

Currently, St. Clair County has a countywide contract  in place for ambulance service, rendering Argo’s ambulance operation unnecessary. Platts said even if there were a catastrophe that would require medical transport, the department isn’t staffed to allow for anyone to drive the truck.

By selling the truck, the city will receive not only the funds from the sale, but also save nearly $4,000 per month in insurance and transport license costs alone. Because medical transport requires more equipment than the fire department’s advanced life support requirements does, savings will be found in the equipment necessary to operate the department, as well.

Platts said three different police departments are interested in purchasing the vehicle to fill an immediate need. However, the board decided to have Platts solicit bids from local fire and rescue departments for the vehicle at a minimum purchase price of $25,000. Bids will be accepted until 4 p.m. Jan. 3, and opened during the council’s regular meeting that evening.

The motion to designate the vehicle as surplus passed 4-0, with Rutledge abstaining from the vote.

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