The city council established a Greensburg Police Department during its regular meeting last week. The single officer department will be the first since the council eliminated the position and replaced it with a Kiowa County Sheriff’s Department contract.
All council members were present for the election-eve 3-and-a-half hour marathon regular meeting. More than 30 minutes of the meeting were spent discussing the costs and community implications of a new police force.
City Administrator Ed Truelove provided job descriptions that had been requested during the Oct. 15 meeting.
Truelove has proposed a three-employee department that would include an “on call” animal control officer, a part-time building and code inspector and a full-time police chief.
While the council later approved the establishment of a police department, it was the discussion of the code enforcement and building enforcement that seemed tentative.
Truelove said the city had received three applications for the code/building inspector position.
He said that none of the applicants had received the required training or certification for the position.
Councilwoman Sandra Jungemann said she had concerns about the costs of training and certifying a potential inspector.
Truelove acknowledged it would be the city’s responsibility to pay for certification if they hired someone who was not yet certified.
Councilwoman Erica Goodman asked Truelove if the volume of new permits would warrant a full time building inspector and if it would be an “on call” position.
Truelove explained that he felt a part-time employee on a payroll would be “simpler.” He clarified that it would be an hourly paid position.
City Clerk Christy Pyatt said requests for building permits, which require an inspection, were “slow.”
“If we have a need for an inspector to be here only five days a month,” asked Goodman, “perhaps there is someone interested in being on-call?”
Mayor Bob Dixson expressed his concern that a newly certified employee could take a job elsewhere, after the city had paid to train and certify them.
“Is the timing right,” asked Truelove. “Is the budget there and do we have community support to establish a Greensburg Police Department?”
Truelove first broached a police department in July during 2013 budget discussions. The council again discussed it at length during a special meeting at the beginning of October, but tabled a vote on Oct. 15 and requested detailed job descriptions.
Last Monday Truelove told the council that if they were not ready to commit to the police department before the end of the year, he recommended that they look towards the 2014 fiscal year to implement it.
Page 2 of 3 - Councilman Rex Butler asked Truelove about the city’s relationship with the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Department.
“What in our city ordinances are they going to cover? The answer is nothing,” replied Truelove who referenced the city’s curfew as one of the city ordinances not currently being enforced. “[The sheriff’s department] said they are comfortable enforcing state statutes and they will continue to do that. So far [Sheriff Kendall Lothman] has been supportive of [additional law enforcement], but he has not been supportive of enforcing city code.”
Councilman Mark Trummel said he felt that the coverage of the sheriff’s department was limited to the highway. “You don’t see them stop anybody north or south of the highway,” he said. “They’re not going through town.”
Jungemann added that she had seen a dramatic drop off of sheriff department coverage inside of the city limits. “You just don’t see it anymore. I feel like we need it.”
“I don’t see how we can justify a full time police department, I just don’t see a need,” responded Butler. “He might be busy for a couple of weeks but it’s just not worth the money. We’re not that bad of a town.”
Truelove said that some larger city gangs were exporting crime to smaller towns and communities like Greensburg could become targets.
He said that gangs were known to set a house on fire and rob local businesses while local fire and law enforcement were dispatched to put out the blaze. “That is their [method of operation],” he said
“We have set a budget and I would assume that we would be evaluating this after a year’s time to see if there was a need for it,” said Goodman. “I’d like to see us move forward on this.”
Councilman Matt Christenson said that the people of Greensburg have essentially been paying for a police department and they should get what they are paying for.
“The last 2 or 3 years we’ve always had a line item for law enforcement,” he said. “We need to provide that service if we are taxing people for it.”
A motion to establish a full time Greensburg police department, presented by Trummel was seconded by Councilwoman Jungemann and passed with a 4-1 vote.
Councilman Butler was the single “no” vote.
The council made a second vote, with the same result, to begin advertising for the position of chief of police. It passed 4-1 with Butler the only “no” vote.
Page 3 of 3 - Speaking on Tuesday Truelove said they had begun advertising for the position on law enforcement websites and in the Hutchinson News. He said the city had already received three applications. One of the applicants is a current Great Bend Police Department officer.
Another applicant is an officer Truelove knows personally. In previous discussions, Truelove had said he knew of an officer that would be interested in the position and that the applicant is currently an active duty police officer.
Interviews are expected within two to three weeks.
A fulltime police officer is scheduled to begin duty around the end of January or beginning of February said Truelove, though he said an officer will be hired in December, allowing time to organize the department properly, obtain equipment and file necessary paperwork.