Mayor Bernero, Council Member Wood at odds over how to spend city dollars when it comes to public safety

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Budget talks continued during the Lansing City Council meeting Monday night and the discussion will pick back up later this week, after the council failed to approve a proposed budget amendment that would allow the city to buy 10 new police cars, an ambulance, and upgrade its IT systems.

It’s a disagreement over wages between Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and At-Large City Council Member Carol Wood and both sides said they won’t be calling it truce anytime soon, unless something changes.

The two are at odds over priorities when it comes to public safety. Council member Wood voted against the proposed budget amendment Monday night, with two council members absent, therefore resulting in an insufficient number of votes needed to pass the budget.

Here’s a look at how much money will be spent and where:

Mayor Bernero said $300,000 dollars of the proposed budget amendment would be used to make critical upgrades to protect the city’s IT systems.

Another $450,000 would be used to buy 10 new police cars as well as a new ambulance for the Lansing Fire Department.

$450,000 would go to street lighting and repairs for aging facilities in the city and $185,000 would be used to reimburse the city clerk’s office for unexpected election expenses.

“Using those dollars for vehicles at this time, I believe is irresponsible,” Council member Wood said.

Irresponsible, depending on whom you ask. While Council member Wood agrees there needs to be upgrades to the city’s IT systems, she said the city should find a way to fill the 20+ vacant police and fire positions before buying new cars to put them in.

She said 22 police officer positions need to be filled, with about another 30 at the Lansing Fire Dept.

“We have massive amounts of overtime in the fire department, we do in the police department as well,” Wood said. “If there’s not a body in those cars, those cars aren’t answering those calls. The last I knew, it was an automobile, it wasn’t a police officer.”

But Mayor Bernero said those positions are in the process of being filled and criticized Councilmember Wood for her opposition.

“It puts a number of our programs in jeopardy, it puts the public safety in jeopardy in a variety of ways,” Bernero said. When it comes to those vacancies, it’s not about the money. The money is there. It’s about who’s going to pass the test, who goes to the academy etc. Etc., who makes it through the background check.”

But Wood said those dollars could be better spent to help moving the hiring process forward.

“I think it’s critical that we look outside the box at doing something with hiring,” she said. “We have an additional $650,000 to do that.”

“This is a well thought out budget process, these are needed vehicles, this is a needed investment,” Mayor Bernero said.

The mayor called for a special council meeting for Thursday, June 30th at 5:30 p.m. in an effort to get the budget amendment approved before the end of the current fiscal year, under state law.

The deadline to do that is Thursday at midnight.

Bernero said he’s hoping that’s where things get resolved, however Councilmember Wood said unless the public safety proposal gets thrown out, she’s sticking to her no-vote on this one.

6 News plans to be at the meeting on Thursday and will provide any updates as soon as they become available.

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