Purvis: Plan is ‘band-aid approach’
Blue Earth Police Officer Todd Purvis decided it was time to step up and speak his peace about the City Council exploring options to having their own police department.
Purvis used the ‘public express’ portion of last Monday’s City Council meeting to express his views.
He says the plan to have Winnebago take over the department is a “band-aid approach” to the problem.
“This is not what is best for the City of Blue Earth,” Purvis says.
He cited items such as loss of control of police matters and ownership of equipment as serious issues.
Purvis says while Blue Earth might save $70,000 at first, the cost will have to go up.
“If Winnebago runs the Blue Earth department, it will be like operating in a city with 5,000 population (adding Winnebago and Blue Earth’s population together),” he says. “Winnebago will have to pay its officers the same pay scale as a town the size of Waseca does. Right now they pay on the low end of the state scale.”
Purvis says he and his fellow officers in the Blue Earth Police Department are very upset about the lack of communication from the city.
“Everything we know has come from the radio, newspapers and town gossip,” he says.
Purvis also pointed out that the officers in Blue Earth have the most experience of any in Faribault County.
“I have been here 20 years,” he says. “Officers in Winnebago come and go because of the low salaries. They average four years.”
He adds that he will be better financially collecting unemployment than accepting a salary at Winnebago’s current pay scale. “I know there are those who think if we spend time in the police station that we are screwing off,” he says. “But, we have more paperwork than ever to take care of. We are very professional in our work, and we take pride in our jobs.”
Mayor Rob Hammond responded that no one on the council had ever questioned the professionalism of the police officers.
“The lack of communication comes from the fact that there is a union, and discussions have to go through the union,” Hammond says.
Purvis responded by publically outlining the union’s proposal for a new police contract – to replace the old one which expired at the end of 2010.
“We asked for a one year contract with a 2-percent raise,” Purvis says. “But we also agreed to take no raise if the city’s LGA gets cut.”
The officers were also asking for more days of workers compensation time, from 10 to 35, if a catastrophic accident happens.
“This is almost a non-issue,” he says. “In my 20 years here there has never been a workers comp claim.”
Another issue, however, is the amount of health insurance premium paid by the city and the employees.
The monthly premium went up $358 and Purvis says the union offered a 50-50 split.
The city wanted to pay just $15. Now an arbitrator’s ruling put the city’s share at 80 percent.
“I thought this was a fair proposal to the city,” Purvis says. “But we have had no response from the city since February until we just received a letter from (city administrator) Kathy Bailey last week.”
Later in the meeting last Monday night, the council went in to closed session to discuss the police union contract with their attorney.
After the nearly one-hour closed session, Hammond says only that the contract terms had been discussed at length by the council and the city attorney had been instructed to contact the union and set up another negotiation session.