Two new police officers to be hired
Two new police officers will soon be patrolling the streets of Alexandria.
At its meeting Monday night, the city council approved Police Chief Rick Wyffel’s request to hire the officers.
One will replace Burt Crary, who is resigning January 23 after nearly 20 years of service to take a position with the Minnesota State Patrol. The other officer is an addition included in the police department’s 2014 budget.
Wyffels said there is an urgent need to get the new officers hired. He has one officer out on family medical leave right now.
“It is important we get started on this immediately,” the chief told the council.
The competition to hire new officers is fierce right now, Wyffels said. He said that an estimated 1,300 to 1,600 police officers plan to retire this year to take advantage of Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) changes that take effect this summer.
“The earlier we start this process will hopefully get us ahead of the extreme demand for police candidates,” Wyffels said.
The council also reorganized for the New Year.
It approved a resolution updating city employee position classifications and compensation. Employees will receive a 2 percent raise in 2014.
The city is in the process of studying employee compensation rates and comparing them to similar-sized cities. Depending on the results of the study, the council may change the 2 percent amount or institute merit pay adjustments, said City Administrator Marty Schultz. There is flexibility in the budget to make changes, he added.
Monthly pay ranges, which depend on experience and position, range from $1,981 for parking monitor/secretary worker to $5,174 for police chief and $5,772 for the city administrator.
The council updated the city’s personnel policy manual and designated paid holidays. Columbus Day will be excluded this year and the day after Thanksgiving was added.
The Echo Press was again designated as the city’s official newspaper for publishing legal documents such as tax delinquency lists and public notices.
The council also named 21 financial institutions as city depositories in 2014.
The council’s regular meeting schedule will remain the same, the second and fourth Mondays of each month, starting at 7 p.m., with one exception. The second meeting in May will take place on May 27 because of Memorial Day.
The council designated elected and appointed officials who will be covered under Minnesota workers compensation and authorized those who can access the city’s safety deposit boxes to make deposits or transfers. Council member Virgil Batesole voted against the motion. He believes the city charter doesn’t allow the council to delegate its financial authority to others.
IN OTHER ACTION
In other action, the council:
•Approved an engineering agreement with Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates for a street reclamation project in the Victoria Heights neighborhood. The streets in that area are in very poor shape and need to be repaved, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven. The total cost of the project, if the city decides to later move ahead with it, is estimated at $560,200. The latest engineering agreement is for $39,523. The project includes the following streets: Viking Street (from Vinland Street to Runestone Drive), Nissen Street (from Rosewood Lane to Runestone Drive), Scandia Street (from Rosewood Lane to Runestone Drive), Vineland Street (from Scandia Street to Viking Street), High Street (from Viking Street to the north end) and Runestone Drive (from Victoria Drive to 6th Avenue).
•Approved Mayor Sara Carlson’s request to move the “public comment” portion of council meetings toward the beginning of the meeting, right after the consent agenda, instead of having it toward the end of the meeting. This will give the public an opportunity to talk about an issue before the council votes on it, Carlson said. In order to keep the meeting on schedule for public hearings, comments will be limited to three minutes per person.
•Made changes to the bid packages that are being put together for downtown amenities that will be part of the Broadway reconstruction project from 3rd to 8th Avenue this summer. Watch for a follow-up story and photos in the Echo Press.
•Gave preliminary approval to a new 10-year franchise agreement with CenterPoint Energy. It allows the city to collect a fee based on 5 percent of CenterPoint’s gross revenues.
•Began making appointments and re-appointments for city boards, committees and commissions. (A full list will be published when it is completed.) Long-time members who decided to step down from committees this year were thanked by the council for their many years of public service. They include Corliss Stark (Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission), Karen Senesac (Planning Commission) and David Squire (Stormwater Management Committee).