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Council hears proposal for sixth police officer
The City of Fennimore
The City of Fennimore Common Council met on Monday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. The council heard and approved a proposal to add a sixth full time officer to its police force.
“Policing has become significantly more complex in the last 25 years,” French shared in his report. “Most calls for service or administrative tasks require specialized training or experience to resolve in a manner consistent with community expectations and legal standards. Most police departments in our area providing 24 hour law enforcement services to populations of 2,500 to 3,500 have six or more full time officers and some form of administrative assistant. Fennimore does not and this has made it challenging to meet administrative demands and fill shifts. Department staffing levels have remained at five full time officers since 1974 and has no administrative assistant or other support staff.”
French also shared in his report that Fennimore has a population of 2,500 however, the Southwest Wisconsin Technical College (SWTC) population adds an additional 1,100 persons during the day and they have an additional 140 student housing beds.
“During most day shifts, one officer is responsible for serving the community, SWTC, both community schools and getting required administrative tasks complete,” French reported. “Fennimore Police Department has employed part time officers since 2000. Part time officers are used to fill open shifts and increase the size of the department for special functions.” French went on to include the departments findings on the ongoing struggle with the applicant pool continually shrinking.
“Part time officers who have full time jobs elsewhere can take overtime shifts in their own department and there is little incentive for them to cover shifts for us,” French shared.
French explained in his report that the officers work a six week rotation.
“All three officers and the chief get one true Saturday and Sunday combination off every six weeks,” French reported. “The assistant chief is tied to two or three shifts a week and fills in where needed and works most weekends.”
Problems arise, French noted, when officers request a day off and the assistant chief is already on duty for that day.
“This has caused overtime use because there has been no part time officers to take the open shift,” French said. “Officers already work evenings, weekends and holidays as part of their normal rotations. The city provides paid time off as a benefit so officers can spend some time away from work. But because we are a 24-hour department, when one person takes off, someone else must work.”  French noted that the cases of officers giving up their normal days off can lead to officer burn out and arguments.
“Officers work sick and injured simply because there is nobody else to work if they need to use sick time,” French said. “Being at work when you’re throwing up or your back hurts so bad you can’t put on your belt, it’s counter productive.”
Further more, French noted several secondary problems associated with lack of a staff, such as the school liaison program, falling behind on trainings, as well as being a presence at community events and meetings.
French gave some examples of a rotation the six officer potentially could enter. Allowing them to fill holes in the schedules and let officers use PTO as desired without using overtime.
“This would provide officers with proper rest,” French noted. “When not filling shifts, the extra hours would provide double coverage which could be flexed anywhere between noon and 4 a.m. depending on need. It’s been a really long summer, and we’re all a little burnt out”
French also mentioned a rotation option of officers doubling up on day shift to provide eight hours of liaison coverage and eight hours designated time for uninterrupted administrative work.
“Perhaps an extra day could be used every now and then to free up a department head to attend community events or meetings,” French included.
French went on to explain that the 2019 budget includes 1,000 hours for part-time officer use.
“Having a sixth officer to help fill shifts would allow us to lower this number to 300 hours a year,” French said. “This would be a savings of $13,188 a year.”  
The police chief also noted there could be savings associated with reducing and eliminating the need for overtime.
Despite the savings, French did note that the cost for the additional officer would be nearly $50,0000 a year.
“We need people to fill shifts, I don’t see any other options besides drop out of 24 hour coverage or have a sixth officer,” French said.
Despite the cost concerns, the council was supportive of the addition.
“I was very excited to see this on the agenda,” Alder Jessie Strack commented.
“We are one injury or serious injury from the whole department falling apart,” Alder Greg Ashmore said with concern in his voice.
“It’s a recipe to make a bad decision,” Alder Dave Streif remarked.
Chief French also agreed with this, citing studies that support the concept of fatigue in the work place leading to poor decision making.
“I’ve said it before, we have a pretty darn good police department, and I would like it to stay that way,” Mayor Ryan Boebel expressed.
“I say we make a motion to push for the sixth officer,” Alder Strack said firmly.
“I’m working on it to make it work in the budget,” City Clerk Debi Heisner assured the Chief and Council.
“So the council is saying they’d like to move forward with budgetary work and find funds for a sixth officer by any means necessary,” Boebel said.
The council voted in favor of the creating the sixth officer position.
The Council also addressed the new Director of Public Works for Fennimore.
Although the candidate that has been hired is yet to be addressed by name in regular council open session, a modification to his start date was approved. The new DPW for the city requested to start a week early and will now be joining the city work force on Monday, Nov. 18.
Library Director Cathy Smith approached the council regarding the bill for the mowing for the snow removal for 2019.
Smith shared that when she was previously creating her budget she had noted that $598 was the most the library had spent in the last five years for both snow removal and lawn mowing.
So, when she received a bill from the city for $1,123 for lawn mowing and $645.50 for snow removal, she was surprised.
“I guess, I just wanted some clarification,” Smith told the council. “If we would have known that it would have been that high we would have gotten quotes from other folks.”
Alder Jeff Hagen noted that at one point, there was a change  to the ordinance to charge an hour minimum for the service. It was also noted that there was an additional fee for simply bringing the equipment to the site for the work.
Mayor Boebel noted to the council and Smith that he would speak with Street Superintendent Barry Belstra about the work being performed at the library.
“We have the funds to cover it, I just want to make sure its the same across the board,” Smith indicated.
Boebel assured Smith and the Council that he would “Check the ordinance, and get the facts and we’ll go from there.”
Clerk-Treasurer Debi Heisner shared with the council that the city had a “great turn out for lunch,” during public power week. “Focus on Energy was here and answered questions for people. The electric department grilled lunch and even helped serve.”
Heisner also shared that she is currently working on the budget.
“I’ve met with Barry, Linda and Cathy to go over their numbers,” Heisner shared. “I have requests from sewer and electric. I’m happy to meet with the finance committee soon to go over things.”
Promotions Coordinator Linda Parrish shared in her report to the council that there is a new business in town.
Metal Manipulators, owned and operated by Jon Zapletal recently opened up shop at 700 Industrial drive, just west of Braudt Automotive.
Parrish also noted that there is an interested party in the World of Variety building.
The Jehovah Witnesses Kingdom Hall will be closing.  “Their board indicates they plan to put building up for sale,” Parrish noted. “Current members will worship in Belmont and Richland Center.”
Parrish concluded her report by sharing with the council that she is continuing to explore possibilities for funding for a digital sign.
In other council news:
•Margaret Sprauge shared the first draft of updates to the tree care ordinance.
•Parrish and Alder Strief expressed their support for maintaining funds in the budget for a part time summer employee for the city offices.
•Approved a contract with H.James and Sons for work on the Northside of Fennimore and explore cost savings options for other site improvement work.
•Approved funds for updating the city website.
•Approved Heisner’s request to switch to American Fidelity Assurance Company for Flex Spending accounts and other services over TASK for a cost savings of approximately $1,500 for the city.
•Tabled a discussion about street light replacement.

•Mayor Boebel commented that he continues to knock on doors regarding tree trimming and noted that people over all seemed agreeable to the work.