ALEXANDRIA – Alexandria police officers respond to horrific scenes and situations – suicides, car crashes, shootings, assaults, to name just a few.
A new wellness effort to help them cope with that level of trauma took a step forward Monday night. The Alexandria City Council supported the selection of Erica Overshiner to serve as a therapist for the police department. Police Chief Scott Kent was authorized to negotiate a contract with Overshiner.
"For many, many years and for many, many incidents, our police officers have gone without any support," said council member Dave Benson, a retired police officer. "It's very important to support our officers and their families in this way."
Overshiner works for Central Lakes Mental Health in Alexandria. Her areas of specialty include trauma, anxiety, depression and grief. She graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, in 2004 with a master's degree in clinical social work.
Kent made the request to hire a mental health professional. In a memo to the council, he said that there are experiences in public safety that have a negative impact on the overall wellness of officers. “Many of these experiences cannot be avoided because of the line of work and being the first arriving on scene for tragic events,” Kent said. “If we cannot avoid these experiences, I feel it is our responsibility to provide a mechanism to help our staff process these experiences.”
Kent said three main areas will be a priority in 2022 – peer support, critical incident debriefing and therapeutic support services.
At its Dec. 13 meeting, the council called for requests for qualifications and proposals for the wellness program. Since then, four members of the police department’s wellness committee, a city employee and a member from the community reviewed three packets from interested candidates, Kent said. They also conducted interviews of all three before recommending Overshiner.
Deer hunting season not dead
A deer hunting season within the city limits is still a possibility.
The council looked into the idea last summer and decided not to hold a hunt in 2021, saying the process of drafting a deer hunting ordinance shouldn’t be rushed through when safety is an issue.
At Monday’s meeting, City Administrator Marty Schultz said that invitations have now been sent to potential partners in the planning, implementation and management of a city deer hunt.
The police department is leading the effort, Schultz said. The first planning meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 3 p.m. at the Alexandria Police Department. Groups and individuals who are interested in the issue are invited to attend.
"The more help, the better," said Police Chief Scott Kent.
Individuals or organizations that are interested in learning more about the effort may also contact Kent at the police department.
Eight streets on 2022 list for improvements
Sections of eight city streets in Alexandria made the list to receive a makeover later this year.
The council voted to call for bids for the 2022 local street improvement projects, which include:
Jasmine Drive, from County Road 22 to the east end of the street.
Abbygail Drive, from Jasmine Drive to Jasmine Drive.
Derek Drive, from Jasmine Drive to Jasmine Drive.
Benjamin Drive, from County Road 22 to Jasmine Drive.
Alleys behind Jasmine, Abbygail and Derek Drives.
Highland Trail, from Latoka Drive to the east end of the street.
Highland Court, from Highland Trail to the east end of the street.
George Street, Nelson Street and Dale Street.
The total budget for the improvements, mainly resurfacing, is $403,189. As in other years, all streets will be bid separately and some projects may have to be rescheduled if the bids come in over the budget.
Council sets ground rules for 2022
The Alexandria City Council approved its “rules of procedure” and “code of conduct” at Monday night’s meeting.
Respect is once again a key principal in both documents.
“It all comes down to respect,” the code of conduct states. “Respect for one another as individuals, respect for the validity of different opinions, respect for the democratic process, respect for the community that we serve.”
The city charter requires the council to go through the procedures every year and approve them.
The code of conduct describes how the mayor and council members should treat one another, city staff, consultants, constituents and others they may come in contact with while representing the city.
It also provides guidance related to conflicts of interest. Here are some highlights. All council members should:
Fully participate in City Council meetings and other public forums while demonstrating respect, kindness, consideration, and courtesy to others.
Prepare in advance of meetings and be familiar with issues on the agenda.
Represent the city at ceremonial functions at the request of the mayor.
Be respectful of other people’s time.
Stay focused and act efficiently during public meetings.
Serve as a model of leadership and civility to the community.
Inspire public confidence in Alexandria government.
Demonstrate honesty and integrity in every action and statement.
Participate in scheduled activities.
During public meetings, the code says council members must practice civility, professionalism and decorum in discussions and debate.
“Difficult questions, tough challenges to a particular point of view, and criticism of ideas and information are legitimate elements of a free democracy in action,” the code states. “This does not allow, however, the mayor and council members to make belligerent, personal, impertinent, slanderous, threatening, abusive, or disparaging comments. No shouting or physical actions that could be construed as threats will be tolerated.”
The code urges council members to be aware of the insecurity of written notes, voicemail messages, e-mail, text messages, “tweets,” and social media.
The code also covers the conduct of the mayor and council members in unofficial settings. It says they should:
Make no promises on behalf of the council.
Make no personal comments about the mayor or other council members.
Remember that despite its continued growth, Alexandria is a small community at heart and the mayor and council members are constantly being observed by the community every day that they serve in office.
The city adopted new rules of procedure two years ago, using recommendations from the Minnesota Mayor’s Handbook Rules of Order, which was created by the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Mayors Association.
Some highlights from the 78-page document:
Council members will assist the mayor in preserving order and decorum.
Neither the mayor or council shall engage in conduct that delays, interrupts or hinders discussion.
Neither the mayor or council shall engage in private conversations or pass private messages while in the council chamber.
No profane or obscene words or language that threatens harm or violence toward another person.
No council member may speak without being recognized by the mayor.
No council members may interrupt the speech of another.
During debate, council members may only speak when called upon; must direct comments to the mayor; and must not be disruptive. The mayor may interrupt council members but not vice-versa.
Highway committee items
City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven reported on items the city’s highway committee considered on Dec. 16:
A request for a three-hour parking stall at Trumm Home Medical was approved. It will be located on Fillmore Street, immediately north of the existing handicap stall. The business occasionally has an issue with residents of the Alexson parking there for long periods.
A resident contacted the city, concerned about drivers who are speeding on 10th Avenue by the apartments between McKay and Rosewood. The highway committee recommended placing the speed trailer at this location, weather permitting. The committee will also ask the police department to monitor the situation and report back.
Seasonally restricted parking signs – no parking Nov. 1 to April 1 – will be placed by the Westfield Apartments on 41st and 42nd Avenues. The request came from the street department to aid in snow removal in this area.