AUBURN — City councilors found $165,000 for the fiscal year 2013-14 budget Monday and undid the three most unpopular cuts they made last week.
Councilors will fund $120,000 in overtime for Fire Department, ending a plan to close New Auburn Fire Station 2 for 190 days each year.
Councilors also agreed to put $25,000 toward resurrecting the curbside recycling program and $20,000 for police support for special events, especially the Great Falls Balloon Festival and the Dempsey Challenge.
City Manager Clinton Deschene said he'd have to meet with staff to see how quickly those new revenues would filter into their intended budgets.
Auburn's curbside recycling officially ended Monday, the first day of Auburn's 2013-14 fiscal year, and Deschene did not know how quickly the city's Public Works Department could bring the program back.
"We should know in a couple of days," Deschene said.
Similarly, neither Deschene nor police Chief Phil Crowell would say if the police overtime money would be enough to let police close Court Street for Thursday's July 4 fireworks. The city traditionally closes the road on Goff Hill between Lake and Fern streets to let residents gather on the road and watch the Liberty Festival display.
But councilors said the Fire Department cuts were the most crucial ones to reverse.
"We can sit here and we can argue here or in the back room about economic development or about putting money to the arts, but this is just basic level stuff here," Councilor Joshua Shea said. "It's about protecting our citizens."
The Fire Department "brownouts" were among $1.7 million in cuts approved as part of the 2013-14 budget last week. Councilors cut $405,000 in overtime for city employees in all departments. Those overtime costs covered vacation replacements for firefighters, special events for police and road maintenance and snowplowing for the city's Public Works Department.
Shea said accepting that was a mistake on his part and he apologized. He said he did not understand when he voted that the New Auburn station would be closed for more than half the year.
"This is something that, frankly, I can't believe it came to us at the last minute," he said. "I can't believe it was so different than what we first talked about. It was a mistake and I apologize to anybody who thinks I don't support the Fire Department. I didn't realize how far-reaching it was."
Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said he received an enormous amount of phone calls from residents concerned about the cut, and he urged councilors to rescind it.
Councilor Mary LaFontaine agreed, saying she'd received more phone calls from residents on the fire station issue than on any other.
Councilors covered the $165,000 by finding some new state revenue and making other strategic cuts.
Deschene said the city did not know the final amount of state revenue sharing to expect when the council adopted the budget. State legislators adopted their budget two days later and Auburn received $110,000 more than the council expected.
Councilors also agreed to spend $20,000 from a special police revenue fund and skip replacing a police cruiser for $35,000.
Councilor Tizz Crowley balked at that swap.
"We have a lot of things in this city that $20,000 can support," Crowley said. "That's why I'd like to pause and not spend any money. Before we give it out as in-kind support to events, we should consider we might enjoy the events but I'm not sure we have measured results on how they are helping our community for the investment we give."