Air Pollution Control Bureau faces funding issues - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Air Pollution Control Bureau faces funding issues

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Sue Evans has been dealing with allergies ever since moving to Chattanooga. She keeps track of allergy and air quality reports to help decide when she can spend time outside.

"I've been taking allergy shots for four years. I carry a rescue inhaler," says Evans. "I try to stay in the house when the air quality is bad, but that doesn't always work because I do have to go to work every day."

The reports come from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau which measures pollen and air quality for the public on a daily basis. The people there also perform environmental inspections. But recent years have been tough financially. According to director Bob Colby, the bureau hasn't had a budget increase since 2002.

"If, for instance, the county were to give us a seven thousand dollar increase, they could never decrease our funding after that, and they know that," says Colby.

Seven thousand more from the county and 11 thousand from the city are what he's requesting. Colby has been increasing the fees for industrial permits, much to the dismay of The Tennessee Association of Manufacturers. They asked Colby to make the requests. In order to do their jobs effectively, they need the money.

"We have salary increases. We have increases in our rental costs. We have increases in our insurance," adds Colby.

They've had to let people go in the past few years in order to save. Evans is worried about what will happen if the bureau can't stay in business for many years to come.

"If they're not there anymore doing that, it's going to be hard on those who have asthma and do have allergies because who will we get to tell us that stuff," says Evans.

A lot of money has been spent in the past five years replacing vehicles, some of which were 20 years old. Aging equipment has had to be replaced. There's also the possibility of losing 30% of its federal funding from the EPA if current proposals from the President are approved. One third of Colby's budget comes from federal government and he fears more layoffs if funds run short..

There's not much more money left to spend unless the budget gets a boost. Regardless of the funding decision, Colby says he'll continue to do the best he can.

"Right now we don't have anymore fat to scrape from the bones," says Colby.

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