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Second police officer discussion touches nerves

SHULLSBURG – Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, a volatile City of Shullsburg meeting was called to order by Mayor Duane Wedige.

Shullsburg newcomer Gail McWilliams asked that a discussion of hiring an additional officer be put on this agenda and Wedige granted her request, which resulted in a contentious exchange.

McWilliams began by listing the reasons a second officer is needed in Shullsburg: to lighten the load on current Police Chief Josh Jerry because of more paperwork in the future; most days no one is on duty after 4:00 p.m. and there are problems at bar time, which aren’t being investigated; to be more involved in the schools; it would be nice if the police could be seen more; so Jerry could have a day off without being called back to duty; it would increase the safety of the town for everybody; we would need to be prepared in case something does happen, because it will.

Wedige thanked McWilliams for her comments and told her that she would have to sell this to the public, because the public is who voted it down 56% - no and 44% yes in the April 2, 2019 referendum.

McWilliams asked, “But how many people voted.”

The results of the referendum which asked residents: ‘Should the City of Shullsburg hire a second full time police officer with an initial annual cost of up to $80,000.00 for wages, benefits and equipment plus incremental increases each year thereafter?’ 139 – yes and 163 – no.

Wedige reiterated, “At the time of the referendum, I made it clear that if this passed I would support it, but it got voted down. Why would we go against what the citizens decided? Also, when you’re talking about putting something in the budget you have to start before October, not at the last minute – tonight we’re giving final approval to our budget. We can’t come up with $70,000, if you were on the city council in Cuba City you should know that our hands are tied.”

McWilliam: “I understand that. But are you going to wait until something happens, before you even consider…”

Wedige: “You can take that a lot of ways.”

Alder Emmitt Reilly said, “You (Wedige) and I disagree about this. I agree with Ms. McWilliams on this subject and the money’s here for a second officer. There have been decisions made that I have disagreed with that take the money from somewhere else. We’ve moved street projects up that were four or five years off. We discussed having a second lineman. I’ve been asked where does the money come from – the money comes from the budget. The actual addition to the police budget for a second office was $50,000. I look at the funds every month – there’s a million dollars in the sewer fund, there’s $600,000+ in the water fund and about $500,000 in the electrical fund. There are a lot of things paid for out of this money. Some of the new financial software will come out of those departments. The same thing could happen here. The money is there to do that and we definitely need a second officer, just for the deterrent like Sheriff Reg Gill mentioned at a previous meeting. The money is here, it’s just how it’s being spent.”

Wedige questioned Reilly’s $50,000 figure.

Reilly: “Jerry presented a budget that included an additional officer that was only $50,000 above the current budget for the police department. We’ve only had one or two Police Committee meetings this year, I think you remember that meeting – it was a disaster.”

Alder Pat Heim stood and exclaimed, “And why would we have another one? When our chief of police, just minutes in, gets up and walks out of the meeting. You want us to have another one?”

Reilly: “The way he was treated. I support him 100%.”

Wedige intervened, “We’re not going to get into that.”

Clerk-Treasurer Marsha Einswieler wanting to set the record straight said, “The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) would never allow the water or sewer department to pay for a police officer. They are separate departments with unrelated budgets to the city. You need to look at those departments as they are three separate businesses.”

Paquette chimed in, “Who ever heard of a water department paying a police officers wages? If you don’t understand that you should get it straight before you start talking.”

Reilly responded, “The way I’ve seen things done here – it seems like everything happens when it wants to happen.”

Shullsburg resident Tim Voss asked to speak, “As I understand it’s probably too late to get it in this budget. Short term – the part-time officers don’t like to work here because the salary is too low. So you should raise the salary.”

Wedige responded, “We just did.”

The wages paid to a part-time police officer went from $18 to $20 per hour.

Voss continued, “Second thing is, I guess we have to get another referendum?”

Wedige said, “I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”

Discussion went back and forth and it was established that the council could vote to have a second officer.

Voss: “There are things to do or not do or just wait until something happens.”

Paquette: “That’s a threat. I don’t like that.”

Voss: “What am I threatening?”

Paquette: “You said ‘wait until something happens’. To me, that sounds like a threat. We could have ten police officers and something could still happen.”

Paquette continued, “For ten years this council didn’t think we could afford a second officer, last year a alder thought we needed a second officer. We agreed to a referendum – the second officer got beat 56% - 44%, I consider that fairly close. However, three months in advance of the referendum, there were all kinds of false campaigning going on, claiming houses were broken into. I don’t believe there were any houses broken into; they were scaring our citizens into voting yes. If the false campaigning didn’t happen the additional officer would have lost 5 to 1.”

Reilly said (to Paquette), “I don’t know why you would make a statement like that.”

Paquette said, “I know there were no break-ins in those three months.”

McWilliams said, “There is no night time officer. Do you know what’s happening downtown at night?”

Paquette: “Well if there was a break-in I think we would certainly hear about it.

McWilliams: “There’s not only break-ins, there’s drugs.”

Wedige ended the discussion saying, “We’ve talked about this enough, let’s move on.”

After the room almost moved off the subject. McWilliams had another question.

McWilliams: “Eventually you’re going to have to have a second officer, but what’s going to happen when he’s (Jerry) done?”

Wedige asked, “What do you mean he’s done?”

McWilliams: “His contract is going to be up.”

Wedige: “That’s a year from now. I’m not going to worry about that now.”

McWilliams (in a mocking voice) said, “It’s not a year from now.”

Wedige fired back, “It is too. I think I know when his contract is up. It’s a year from now!”

McWilliams: “I thought it was up in…”

Wedige: “Well you’d be wrong it’s Dec. 2020.”

McWilliams: “Sorry.”

Wedige: “You don’t have to roll your eyes at me.”

Voss: “Whoa, whoa. Don’t attack her anymore.”

Wedige: “I’m not attacking anyone. She’s the one that’s telling me what’s going on and she doesn’t know!”

Budget Hearing

The city held their annual budget meeting. Swenson again voiced her disappointment regarding the Lafayette Development Corporation (LDC) not being funded at $8,000 in the budget. It was pointed out that there is money in the contingency fund that could cover the expense if the city decided to fund the LDC at a later date.

Voss asked why a second police officer wasn’t budgeted. Wedige responded saying, “I’ve stated this two or three times now – we had a referendum and that was voted down.”

The 2020 levy was set at $396,960, which is up $67,920 from 2019, which was $329,040. The 2020 mill rate will be set at $26.74 per $1,000 - that is up from 2019, which was $24.54 per $1,000.

During the city council portion of budget discussion and action - more disagreement was heard.

Alder Emmet Reilly said, “I think we should include the LDC. If we’re going to move forward, working with the county, there are so many things the county is looking at - new Sheriff’s Department, Hospital, Fairgrounds and Manor. I think we should be working with the county on this, I sure would like one of those things set up in Shullsburg. We’re walking away from any involvement in those projects. Plus, I really like what Abby (Abby Haas – Director of the LDC) has done promoting Shullsburg.

Alder Gloria Swenson added, “She has also worked with Advance Shullsburg and they were happy with the work Abby has done.”

Reilly continued, “I’m not going to mention names, but there have been Shullsburg businesses that have been very happy with LCD promoting Shullsburg.”

Alder Jim Paquette said, “Why don’t you give me an example of that.”

Reilly answered, “I said I was not going to say any names.”

Paquette: “You don’t have to tell me names, but just give an example of what was done.”

Reilly: “Abby was here with the two business owners and explained that and if you don’t remember that, I guess you don’t remember it.”

Paquette: “Give me an example, I guess I forgot.”

Reilly: “I’m not using names tonight.”

Paquette: “I don’t need a name, tell me some results.”

Reilly: “I’ve said what I am going to say, let’s move on.”

Paquette: “You have no results.”

Reilly: “Yes I do. I’ll mention that to the lady I forgot to get permission to use her name. She’ll be very pleased (facetiously).”

Paquette: “I just want to hear some results.”

A motion by Alder Pat Heim and a second by Paquette to approve a resolution approving the 2020 budget. Voice vote: Reilly – no, Swenson – no, Paquette – yes, Heim – yes. Mayor Wedige broke the tie and voted yes. The 2020 budget resolution is approved.

In other city business:

•Bruce Gardiner of Gardiner of Gardiner Appraisal Service, LLC of Mineral Point presented an outline of services and two-year contract for the city to consider. A two-year contract for $6,700 per year was approved.

•Approved paying the bills for general, water, sewer, electric, pool, museum, library & TIF funds for $56,580.

•Discussed rehabilitating and repairing well #4 in the city. The council viewed pictures of the well provided by Peerless, Inc. of Kalamazoo, Mich. that were the results of an inspection. Council members commented how bad it looked.

Wedige stated right now the other well is doing all the work and asked the council what their wishes were.

Alder Jim Paquette said, “I don’t think we have any other options.”

A motion was made and seconded to repair and replace pump components for well #4 at a cost of $34,317 by Peerless, Inc. Approved.

•No action on replacing the secondary attorney for the city.

•Approved 3-1, with Reilly voting no, a resolution approving short-term borrowing in the amount of $169,918 from Clair Bank at a rate of 1.95%. The loan will be paid back Jan. 15, 2020. Reilly asked if we asked other banks to do the transaction and was told that they did not, because nobody has ever been close in rates.

•After discussion the purchasing of a key FOB system was tabled.

•Approved the purchase of financial software from Civic Systems, LLC of Madison. The items purchased were: cash receipt module, MyExcel GL module and payroll direct deposit & MiPay online module - the total amount of $8,625, plus $1,900 in annual fees.

•Approved closing the seasonal burning grounds Dec. 8, 2019.

•Created and approved an ordinance adding a half percent penalty on delinquent personal property tax.

Committee meetings:

•Library will be closed Dec. 22 through Dec. 25.

In public comment:

•Wayne Gehrt commented, “I don’t know why we would spend $12,000 on FOBs when no problem exists.”

•Tom Lathlean thanked Wayne Gerht for donating money for the Christmas lights and then made a sharp statement.

Lathlean said, “I have to ask Mr. Reilly how long you’ve been on the council?”

Reilly: “Almost five years.”

Lathlean: “It’s astounding to me that you’re sitting here thinking you can take money out of utility departments and transfer those funds to the police department. I think everybody should be questioning anything that has to do with economics that comes from Mr. Reilly or any statement that he makes.

Reilly: “My comment to you is I don’t believe half of what you say.”

Lathlean: “There is an issue when a public official attacks a public citizen. That is unethical, uncalled for and you should be reprimanded.