Council rescinds previous action, will not cut ‘on-call’ police hours

By Charlie Warner

Argus News Editor

Stating that he “originally felt it would be a good way for the city to save some money, but looking at it now, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea,” Mayor Bob Burns made a motion to rescind previous action to do away with on-call hours for Caledonia Police and to request Houston County Sheriff’s Department coverage during early morning hours. His motion was seconded by Councilwoman Randi Vick and unanimously approved by the council.

At the March 12 meeting, the council discussed being able to realize a savings of about $3,500 a year by utilizing Sheriff’s Department personnel during the hours of “off time” in the Caledonia Police Department’s work schedule.

After reviewing the issue on March 12, the council approved doing away with city police off time.

Caledonia Police Chief Kurt Zehnder and Sgt. Jim Stemper attended the March 26 council meeting and discussed a number of safety issues they had with the council’s recent decision.

Stemper said it wasn’t a money issue for his officers, or a union issue, but a safety issue. Late night calls without any back-up really concerned him.

“There’s only one deputy in the entire county on duty, plus one police officer in La Crescent during these hours,” Zehnder told the council. “I don’t feel we should be eliminating all on-call hours during the night. Financially, it might make sense, but as far as a safety issue, it does not. There are better ways for us to try to save money for the city.”

Stemper added he was concerned about a repeat scenario of what happened in Lake City when an officer, with no back-up, was fatally shot while answering a domestic case.

Following the motion to rescind the previous council action, Zehnder was instructed to put off time back into the regular schedule.

In other council action:

Circus coming to town

Caledonia Area Chamber of Commerce President Karen Ness informed the council the Culpepper and Merriweather Big Top Circus, that put on shows in Spring Grove and La Crescent last summer, plans a show in Caledonia on Aug. 6.

“This is a first-class circus and I heard nothing but good reviews from people in Spring Grove and La Crescent,” Ness said.

Ness told the council they need to find an area 250 by 300 feet for the show, with electric and water access and also access for parking. A dumpster for garbage and manure will also be required.

Councilmembers spent some time trying to come up with a viable location without any success. The council said they would work with the chamber any way they could, as they felt the circus would be a good draw for the city.

Anyone with ideas, is asked to contact Ness or the chamber office.

Variance request

After reviewing the dimensions of the lot and doing some negotiating, the council approved a five-foot setback variance for Kim Klug to construct a 10 by 16-foot utility shed on her property at 213 West South Street.

Klug had originally requested a seven-foot variance, which would have put the shed within three feet of the property line. The council had issues with allowing a building to be located that close to a property line, citing utility and emergency vehicle access as the main concern.

“Can you live with moving it two more feet into your back yard?’ Burns asked. Klug replied if that was what it would take, she’d agree to it.

A motion by Burns and seconded by Councilman Bob Lemke to approve the five-foot variance was unanimously approved.

Extended warranty

The council approved spending $961 for two extra years on a new loader the Street Department was purchasing. City Coordinator Mike Gerardy recommended the additional two years, stating that all it would take was one breakdown and the money would be well-spent.

The cost of the new loader was $24,273, which will be part of a bonded indebtedness program.

You can contact Charlie Warner at [email protected]