Getting details of Blue Earth Police Department’s proposal to provide police coverage in Winnebago has been a slow process.
City Administrator Judi Hynes gave a brief update at the City Council meeting held Tuesday night after a resident asked if any progress was being made.
Hynes says she’s had discussions with Mary Kennedy, Blue Earth city administrator, but has yet to receive anything.
“I made contact with her back in May and she just got back to me just now,” says Hynes. “She indicated she would be getting information to me.”
But, Hynes says she doesn’t expect to get any information until sometime in July.
A public hearing was held last month before a standing-room crowd to discuss the future of Winnebago’s Police Department.
Police Chief Eric Olson has been the department’s lone officer since January of this year and the city has been unable to fill two full-time vacancies after the officers took jobs elsewhere.
Council members have considered raising wages as a way to recruit new officers and if that is unsuccessful one option would be to contract services with another law enforcement agency.
For now, the council approved a new pay scale for officers so Olson could advertise the current openings on the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training website.
The starting hourly wage for officers with no experience increases from $25.39 to $30.39. An officer’s pay would be based on their experience with the top being $36.16
Council member Calvin Howard says the new wages are a temporary solution.
“Now we can move forward with the Blue Earth thing, so we get the right answers,” he says.
Olson, who has been with the department for nine years, received a favorable job performance evaluation and will now be earning $36.50 an hour retroactive to May 5.
Those in attendance at the May hearing overwhelmingly supported maintaining a local police department. They also asked the council to gather more information and hold another public hearing before making a decision.
The city has not been without full coverage, however, as part-time officers and Faribault County Sheriff’s Department have helped Olson until the city hires officers.
Under Blue Earth’s proposal, Winnebago would pay $355,561 beginning in 2024 to have police coverage from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Olson would become an employee of their department. Winnebago Police Department’s budget this year is $366,886.