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May 15, 2014

New ambulance, grant top city council agenda

Motorcycle Awareness Month recognized; National Peace Officers Memorial Day service scheduled

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville Mayor Kenneth Melvin welcomed Councilman Jeff Smith back and thanked Smith's Dist. 2 opponents in this years election for the council.

"Good to have you back on board," Melvin told Smith at the beginning of the Tuesday night meeting.

Smith will be sworn in with newcomer Aaron Swink during the June city council meeting. Swink was the sole candidate for Councilwoman Ann Chandler's Dist. 4 seat.

Melvin also presented local representatives with a certificate recognizing Motorcycle Awareness Month. He stressed the importance of driver safety when sharing the road with motorcycles.

Melvin also invited area residents to attend a ceremony at 11:30 a.m. today (Thursday) at the Jacksonville Police Department for National Peace Officers Memorial Day for Police Week.

During the meeting, the city council approved the financing of a 2013 Dodge Ram ambulance for the Jacksonville Fire Department. The new ambulance was partially purchased with a $35,000 grant. The remaining cost of $85,000 will be financed by Austin Bank in quarterly payments on a three-year unsecured loan at 1.99 percent.

"We do a lot of transfers to Tyler. Units get old and start to break down," JFD Chief Paul White said. "We want a reliable ambulance to take patients to the hospital (and) don't want it to break down."

White said the new ambulance will replace an early 2000s model. The department has a four-ambulance fleet, and he said there will be one more to replace and then the JFD will be set up for several years.

White said the newer model ambulances have a "box" that is basically the heart of the ambulance. It contains a separate generator, oxygen lines and needed electronics, and is heavy duty.

White said with the newer models, the department can re-mount the box into another ambulance, to offset costs. He said this process can typically be done about three times.

"The truck (ambulance) is about $36,000 by itself. So, we can change out the box in each unit, and then the total cost will be less than $40,000," White explained.

The city is seeking another grant to help add improvements to Nichols Green IV Park. Council members authorized staff to proceed with an application for an $800,000 grant, that splits costs 50/50 with the city, which will be responsible for Nichols Green Foundation land area.

"The plan is to have a little splash station, (another) walking trail and a basketball court added," City Manager Mo Raissi said.

Mark Spencer of MHS Planning & Design, LLC, developed the first three phrases of Nichols Green.

The council also approved the removal of stop signs at College Avenue at Devereaux Street. According to information from Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel, it was determined that the four-way stop at the location was initially set up to assist students crossing. The stop sign on Devereaux will remain. while the College Street intersection signs will be removed.

The council also approved organizational changes to the Jacksonville Economic Development Board, which include making the organization's president and assistant official city employees.

"They will now have a retirement plan and be on city health, dental and vision plans," said Freddy Thomas, Jacksonville's financial director.

JEDCO's Chairman of the Board Barry Hughes said he believes the re-alignment will be better and allow the board to work more efficiently with the city.

Meanwhile, a search is underway for a new JEDCO president, Thomas said.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, a representative from the Texas Trappers & Fur Hunters Association was present to discuss plans for a 2015 event.The group plans to hold its annual family-oriented event the third weekend of April 2015.

The council approved a request from the group for $850 to cover the rental fee of the Cherokee County Expo Center.

Also approved during the meeting was the blocking of portions of downtown streets on Wednesday evening for the annual Jacksonville Rodeo Parade.

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