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home : news : news Wednesday, May 25, 2016

6/21/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
Police department gains OK to hire an extra officer

By Linda Watson
News Editor

The DeWitt City Council agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to add a full-time officer to the police department.

The officer is needed to adequately cover various absences and leaves by other officers, police chief David Porter told the council at Monday's meeting, repeating his plea for extra staffing made at two previous council meetings. The department currently has 10 full-time officers.

City administrator Steve Lindner said he preferred not to add a position in the middle of the year outside the budget process.

However, the timing is such that a staffing crunch exists now because of an extended medical leave. The department's newest officer hired in the spring won't complete the law enforcement academy until August and be fully trained for another 12-14 weeks. Another academy session would begin in August for a new officer.

"It's a tough one to decide," Lindner said.

The vote was 4-0 to approve the position, with council member Verlyn Scheckel absent.

Council member Kurt Ketelsen made the motion, with a second by Luanne Smith.

Ketelsen said he still didn't like what it does to the city budget midstream and does not favor keeping the extra position after the department's staffing stabilizes.

The estimated $53,000-$60,000 cost for the officer for part of fiscal year 2014-15 would be offset in part by eliminating part-time police officers from the force. The chief also said the department would delay a vehicle purchase to help defray the cost of an officer. The position would cost $70,000-$85,000 in 2015-16.

Porter repeated his stance that part-time officers are not feasible because of their limited availability and the time involved in keeping them up to date on training to meet accreditation standards set by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

Perry Lampe, a former sheriff's deputy who has been a part-time officer for nine years, attended the meeting to see what the council would decide. He said he had not been scheduled to work for the department since last fall, and the part-time officers met with the chief about a month ago about the situation.

Steve Hasenmiller, serving as mayor pro-tem in the absence of mayor Don Thiltgen, said council members "have to do it, it's just a matter of when."

Council member Luanne Smith said she was concerned about officers having to work long shifts multiple days in a row, as described by Porter.

Porter said the department has a current list of qualified officer applicants and will bring a hiring proposal to the council soon.

Grant sought for band shell

The council also approved an application to the Clinton County Development Association for a $40,000 grant for the Lincoln Park band shell project.

The application is due July 8 and requires a 25 percent match, which can include cash or donated materials, but not volunteer labor. City staff is still working on a budget for the project and an oversight committee has been appointed to work with the park board and project proponent Jerry Jackson.

Other business includes campground study

In other business, the council:

•Approved a new route for the Fourth of July parade (see related story).

•Approved a professional services agreement with IIW Engineers and Surveyors for $5,000 to develop a conceptual plan and budget for a possible campground at Westbrook Park.

•Reviewed proposed changes to the city's ordinance pertaining to peddlers, solicitors and transient merchants to allow for some political and religious solicitors. The city cannot require a permit for religious or political organizations merely distributing information, not selling goods or soliciting for funds. A formal ordinance change will be brought to a future council meeting. A religious group brought the request.

•Denied a request by Tom McManus to waive his sewer bill for the amount of water used to fill a swimming pool at 217 8th St. The council advised him to install a second meter for outdoor water use, which measures only water usage for the city utility bill. City officials said dozens of homes have pools, some of which are filled multiple times during the season, so it would be cumbersome to handle similar requests.

•Approved a request for reserved parking on the north side of the 500 block of 10th Street for a car show July 15 in conjunction with Tunes in Town. The parking spots will be blocked off beginning in the morning.

•Approved a temporary street closure of 6th Avenue from 9th Street to the alley to the north from 6:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday, June 21, for a band and activities after the Paul Skeffingon Memorial Race. No alcohol will be allowed outdoors.

•Approved temporary alley closures for construction of an addition to Meant to Be with Flowers, 810 6th Ave., provided owners Kevin and Lisa Duffy notify and allow access for deliveries and parking at neighboring businesses. The intermittent closures are to begin this week and last about a month.

•Approved second readings of seven updates to the city's building, electrical, plumbing and zoning codes and ordinances.

•Approved the third and final reading of an amendment to the city's sidewalk ordinance requiring 5-foot wide sidewalks in new subdivisions to meet new Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

•Released a lien on property at 124 6th Ave. for a driveway expanded during the 6th Avenue repaving project in 2013.

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