At the same meeting where they met their new recently hired fourth police officer, the Blue Earth City Council made a surprise move and authorized the hiring of a fifth officer.
New police officer Chad Bonin, his wife and two of his three children, were present at the meeting and were introduced to the council at the beginning of the work session.
Then, a half hour later, at the start of the regular meeting, the council began the debate on the police department itself.
Councilman John Gartzke reiterated his previously stated argument that there was $50,000 unspent in the 2011 police budget which had been authorized to be moved to the 2012 budget.
Gartzke says he feels these funds could be used to hire an additional police officer.
Police Chief Tom Fletcher told the council that his earlier figures on projected cost savings in overtime if a fifth officer would be hired were incorrect.
"At the last meeting, I stated the savings would be $18,500," Fletcher says. "Actually the savings would be over $20,000."
Councilman Rick Scholtes says that while he favors looking at hiring a fifth officer, he believes the city should give having a fourth officer and a patrolling chief a chance to be put in place and see if a fifth officer is really necessary.
"If we vote to hire another officer this year, I want to be able to see we can keep them next year," Scholtes says.
Mayor Rob Hammond also pointed out there will extra costs involved with more fuel, portable radios and vests and uniforms.
Chief Fletcher agreed that there would be additional costs, but that it would also be a better, safer situation with five officers.
"It is your decision," he told the council. "And we will live with it, one way or another."
There was a motion and second made quickly and the vote was close, 4-3 to hire that extra full time police officer.
Councilmen Gartzke, Glenn Gaylord, Allen Aukes and Russ Erichsrud all voted yes, while Mayor Hammond and councilmen Scholtes and John Huisman voted against the hiring.
Chief Fletcher says he has someone in mind for the fifth officer position.
"We had a very strong No. 2 candidate behind Chad (Bonin)," he says. "So I would plan on offering it to him first. It is someone who has worked for us part time in the past."
Fletcher says that new officer Bonin began his police career in 2009 and has worked for the Truman, Fairmont, Sherburn/Welcome and Trimont departments in the past.