How many cops does BE need?
The Blue Earth City Council started its first meeting of the new year with several new items on its agenda.
First, there were four new council members to swear in. Rick Scholtes, John Gartzke, Russ Erichsrud and Allan Aukes all took the oath of office, as administered by City Attorney David Frundt.
Then, during the annual appointments, the council created two new committees.
Each year the mayor assigns each of the council members to be liaisons to all of the city’s committees. This year, the council approved the formation of two new groups – a long-term planning committee and a personnel committee.
It didn’t take long for the newly-formed personnel committee to receive its first assignment.
During a discussion on whether to hire a new police officer, the council accepted City Administrator Kathy Bailey’s recommendation to send the matter to the new committee.
Police Chief Dean Vereide asked the council for permission to hire an officer to replace D. J. Bullerman, who resigned to take a position with the Faribault County Sheriff’s office.
Losing Bullerman puts the Blue Earth department down to three officers, plus the chief, Vereide says.
“We are filling in D. J.’s shifts with a part time officer, Pat Campbell, at this time,” Vereide says. “But that will only last for about a month.”
New councilman Aukes questioned whether there is a need for a fourth officer, and 24 hour patrolling.
“Is it possible the county sheriff can fill in some of the time at night?” he asked. “Could we contract with them?”
Vereide says the sheriff’s office doesn’t have officers on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“There are times at night that us and Wells (police) are the only ones on patrol in the county,” he says.
The chief also says his department has made the 24 hour patrolling schedule work with just four officers, but ideally they should have five. Right now the four officers pull 12-hour shifts, he says.
Vereide also asked the council for permission to hire the new officer from among the local part time officers the department currently uses to fill in for full time staff who are on vacation, etc.
That matter will also now be up to the personnel committee.
Another new councilman, Gartzke, suggested that the city could begin advertising the position now, while awaiting a recommendation from the committee.
“We could always cancel the advertising later, if we decide not to fill it,” he says.
The other new committee also received its first assignment. In her report, Bailey suggested the council work on a new long range strategic plan, as had been mentioned by Councilman Gartzke during his campaign.
“I suggest at least a two-year plan,” she says. “But it could be three or five years actually.”
In other action at the meeting, the council got a first look at a proposed new street project for 2011.
The project covers Galbraith Street from Seventh to 14th, Tenth Street from Moore to Ramsey and 11th Street from Galbraith to Ramsey. It includes sewer and water lines and street paving.
“This one has become a little larger than we first thought,” Bailey says. “It is also different because United Hospital District will be paying for upgrading some of the street from a 7-ton road to a 9-ton road,” she says. Another part of the project will also be made into a 9-ton street, but that will be paid by the city.
“The residents will only be charged for the cost as though it were all a 7-ton residential street,” Bailey says.
Since a lot of the project concerns streets around UHD, the City Council has planned a joint meeting with the hospital board next week.
The total estimated cost of the overall project is $3.15 million.
Of that amount, $643,681 will be assessed to local property owners who live along the streets in the project area.
UHD, besides their assessment, will also pay an estimated $227,500 for the increase from a 7-ton to a 9-ton street near the hospital.