From body cams to ambulances, first responders roll out their wish lists in city budget talks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After a week's worth of budget hearings was canceled due to a leadership shakeup within the Honolulu City Council, the new budget committee held its first hearing Tuesday and members of Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration laid out their wish lists for 2019.

The city is asking for nearly $3.5 billion for both its 2019 operating and capital improvement projects budgets.

Honolulu's first responders say they need critical upgrades to their equipment, facilities, and workforce to ensure the safety of Oahu residents and their crews.

Emergency responders will be upgrading their communications systems to P25 radios, which will allow crews from different departments to communicate during an emergency.

"Each radio used to cost us about $2,300. With these new radios, each radio is going to cost $6,000," said Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard.

Ballard said she needs money to help roll out the department's body cam program later this year.

HPD headquarters is also in need of some major TLC.

"Elevators in our building have to be replaced. They keep failing on a regular basis. People are getting stuck in the elevators. Our building leaks like a sieve," Ballard said.

Along with equipment upgrades, the Honolulu Fire Department says it needs funding for salaries and overtime since its workforce took a significant hit last year with many firefighters retiring.

"We normally lose about 30 to 40 firefighters a year. In the 2017 calendar year, we lost 90," said HFD Chief Manuel Neves.

EMS officials want to replace their ambulances because they say the fleet is constantly going on calls.

Ocean Safety is asking for four additional lifeguards to patrol Hanauma Bay, known for its high volume of drownings.

Officials say the increase in guards there will allow the division to change work schedules from 8 hours to 10 hours a day with no use of overtime.

Councilman Trevor Ozawa, the new budget committee chair, says he's pleased that Honolulu's first responders put forward very efficient budgets.

"We're a major metropolitan and we have to provide our first responders with the resources," Ozawa said.

Ozawa said the committee will be going through the city's requests line by line looking at ways to save money, while still providing services.

"We're going to be focusing on the areas where we believe the city administration can do without. Similarly with HART, we're going to ask them to go ahead and cut their budget as well, so everybody is going to have to tighten their belts," said Ozawa.

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