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Council hears W’bago police proposal

By Staff | Jun 12, 2011

Wednesday, the Winnebago City Council made the following proposal to the Blue Earth City Council: Blue Earth uniforms, Blue Earth patrol vehicles, Winnebago badges.

A joint city council work session was held between the cities about the possibility of contracting police services.

Winnebago City Administrator Austin Bleess explained the details of the proposed contract in a one-hour joint session.

The proposed contract would run for the remainder of 2011 through 2013.

Under the proposal, protection from Winnebago was advertised as remaining largely the same as current Blue Earth Police service. Coverage would maintain 24-hour patrols seven days a week in Blue Earth with at least one officer on duty at all times.

“Someone would still be in the Blue Earth office, you would have the same vehicles and even the same phone number,” Bleess says. “The only thing that changes is the fact that the paycheck the officers would get comes from Winnebago. Citizens won’t see much of a change.”

To staff around the clock protection,Winnebago plans on hiring four full-time officers and two part-time officers. Those officers would be based in the current Blue Earth Police Department building.

Many Blue Earth council members were concerned with current Blue Earth officers being rehired if Winnebago takes control.

“I feel it’s very important to hire the current officers,” Winnebago Police Chief Bob Toland says. “They already know the problems in the community.”

The rehiring of Blue Earth officers was not guaranteed.

“I see no reason why we can’t hire your officers, but I can’t guarantee it,” Toland says. “It will be there decision as much as ours.”

Toland also announced plans to take the current senior officer in Blue Earth and name him assistant chief to oversee operations in Blue Earth.

“I will make a commitment to the project to make sure it works,” Toland says. “I can promise the Blue Earth council and the Winnebago council that.”

Under the proposed contract, Winnebago could provide police protection to Blue Earth at a cost of $36,516 per month.

According to calculations made by Winnebago officials, Blue Earth will see a 2012 savings of $94,335 through the partnership.

Bleess was very up front when Blue Earth council member Glenn Gaylord asked why Winnebago would be interested in providing police protection to Blue Earth.

“Because we can make money,” Bleess says. “With Local Government Aid cuts looming, we think it would be a good idea for both cities.”

If an agreement is made, both cities would appoint members to a joint advisory committee. The committee would meet four times a year to verify the expectations of both cities are being met.

Bleess suggested a committee of seven members that includes the mayors, two council members of each city and the chief of police.

Winnebago is ready to implement any agreement as soon as each council agrees. A 30-day lead time will be necessary for working out staffing.

“We have a decision to make,” Gaylord says. “After hearing your positive energy, I see no reason why we can’t make this last.”

Blue Earth Council member John Huisman echoed similar remarks.

“Sharing between communities and counties has become the new normal with budget cuts,” Huisman says. “This is a great start to save some money.”

Monday, the Blue Earth City Council will hold a special session to weigh the options of whether to keep their own force, contract services with the county sheriff or contract services with Winnebago.

“There is no question we have to look at our options,” Huisman says. “I am not in favor of going back to the old way of doing things.”