Council settles on list of qualifications, salary for MPD chief position

Hiring committee selected

 

by Beth Kraft

 

Law enforcement personnel who might consider throwing their name in the hat for the open chief of police position in Mondovi now have a clearer picture of what’s expected.

The Mondovi City Council took another step forward in the process at its most recent meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27, approving a list of qualifications for the police chief’s position and agreeing on a starting salary. 

Pulling from various job qualifications in place in other area cities and adding a few of their own, city leaders came up with a list of 15 requirements. 

Candidates will be asked to possess at least seven years of full-time experience as a sworn law enforcement officer and show a progressive trend of responsibility in their position. Basic requirements, some of which are required by state law, demand that candidates be a U.S. citizen with a Wisconsin driver’s license and clean driving record, hold certification with the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board (WI-LESB), be able to legally possess and carry a firearm, and be free of any felony or domestic violence convictions. The ability to establish budgets, maintain records and apply for grants also made the Council’s list, and a physical, drug test, and background check are slated be part of the employment process.

Comparing salaries with other local communities, the Council agreed to post a starting salary for MPD chief of $57,200 with an increase to $59,800 following a one-year probationary period.

Of the five area communities the city surveyed, which included Durand, Osseo, and Arcadia, salaries averaged out to just under $58,000, putting Mondovi right in the middle.

City leaders also agreed to provide a $100 per month residency bonus to encourage the city’s next police chief to live in the city limits. By law, a police chief and other emergency personnel are required to live within 15 minutes of the city. Council members agreed there is a “big difference” between the head of the city’s police department living in town versus 15 minutes away when it comes to emergency response time.

With the residency bonus, Mondovi’s new police chief would make $58,400 in the first year with the annual amount increasing to an even $61,000 after the probationary period.

Mondovi Mayor Treig Pronschinske questioned if the chief’s salary was high enough to allow for adequate separation between it and the sergeant’s position if it is brought back.

Police sergeants are compensated an additional $3.54 per hour above the base officer pay, amounting to an additional $7,000 per year for a total annual salary around $53,000.

The MPD has been without a police sergeant since 1999. Many have agreed bringing back the sergeant’s position is a good idea to share leadership duties with the chief.

Promoting current MPD Officer in Charge Scott Smith to sergeant was also discussed that night in order to compensate him for the extra duties he has taken on.

City administrator Dan Lauersdorf said the Council could opt to name Smith sergeant to effectively give him a pay raise, otherwise there is no other way to legally do so. However, Lauersdorf also pointed out that union laws stipulate that Smith would retain that pay increase even if he were to return to a regular officer’s position down the road.

The legality of promoting for the police chief and sergeant’s positions was a question brought up that night by councilman Gerald Rud, who voiced his concern that the process of going through a hiring committee for the chief of police position was taking way too long.

“People want something done,” said Rud, gauging interest from other city leaders in promoting for the vacant positions rather than waiting for hiring committee recommendations, which could take a few more months.

The city has already amended its ordinance concerning the hiring procedure for chief of police, Pronschinske pointed out.

Additionally, a new chief would likely want to be involved in selecting his or her sergeant with whom they would work with closely on a daily basis, added councilman Dan Johnson.

Community member Cindy Giese said the city was going through the process the right way. Revamping the ordinance and following through on a multi-step police chief selection process was getting to be time consuming, she agreed, but covering all of the details will protect the city from liability issues.

“Unfortunately good things take time,” Giese said.

Council members agreed the process in place should be allowed to take its course. No further action was taken on the subject of promoting for a police chief or sergeant.

Also that night, the Council unanimously approved a list of names submitted by Pronschinske for the police chief hiring committee.

Those who will be charged with the task of helping the city select its next police chief are Giese, Buffalo County Sheriff Mike Schmidtknecht, Rick Christianson, Brian Bollinger and Sara Erickson.

Pronschinske reasoned that both Giese and Schmidtknecht were chosen for their experience in law enforcement and with hiring practices in the field. Bollinger and Erickson both own businesses in downtown Mondovi, and Christianson holds corporate hiring experience.

The subject of conflict of interest was also brought up as a few Council members expressed concern that those on the hiring committee might know some of the potential candidates a little too well.

Pronschinske acknowledged that issue might be difficult to avoid given the fact that area law enforcement agencies work so closely with each other on a regular basis.

In her experience, Giese said applicants have the option to object to an individual on the committee and ask them to step out. Committee members can also excuse themselves from an interview if they don’t feel able to give an unbiased opinion on an individual.

The hiring process will be “something to work through,” she said.

In other business that night, the Council voted in favor of amending an agreement between the city and the Mondovi Area Historical Society to cover the care of the buildings on the recently-acquired Olson farm property.

Located adjacent to the Mondovi Tourist Park, the historical society is now responsible for upkeep and maintenance of the Olson house, barn and other outbuildings as well as the utility bills for those properties alone. The city will continue to foot the cost of utilities for the school house, rural life building, and machine shed, and will insure all of the buildings, mow, plow snow, and otherwise maintain the grounds.

The agreement also states that the city will connect the buildings on the Olson property to city water and sewer if the property’s well or septic system were to fail.

Lauersdorf said the city already provides water and sewer service at the Tourist Park campground, so running those lines a bit further shouldn’t be too much trouble. The city may need to redo those water and sewer lines soon anyway, and could run stubs out to the property should it ever need to be connected.

Furthermore, the property’s well and septic systems are relatively new and wouldn’t be getting much use given the home’s planned use as additional museum space.

In other business that night, the Council approved the following:

• resolutions recognizing the retirements of Barry T. Weber, 36 years as a city water and sewer operator; Terry M. Pittman, 32 years of service with the Mondovi Police Department; Dennis G. Brion, 50 years of service with the Mondovi Fire Department

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