By Clay Schuldt
The Caledonia City Council finalized the 2014 budget during the last meeting of 2013 on Dec. 30.
The only significant change in the budget from the previous meeting was a drop in the Police Department’s part-time hours from 80 hours per month to 25 hours per month. This dropped the department’s budget by $13,835.
Councilmember Tom Murphy defended this cut.
“I think it is important for people to know that the city of Caledonia makes a very substantial expenditure with police protection on a per person basis,” he said. Murphy went on to compare Caledonia to St. Charles in terms of police expenditure, commenting that the difference was stunning.
Mayor Robert Burns agreed the Police Department had received substantial increases over the years. Burns also stated that he was in favor of adding a permanent part-time officer because he wanted Caledonia residents to be familiar with on-duty officers.
In addition, a recent resignation from the part-time force will create a vacancy in the department. Burns said he felt that a new permanent part-time officer should be sufficient to cover vacation time and sick leave even with the reduction in hours.
Councilmember Robert Lemke believed 25 hours would work unless an officer was injured or sick long term. Burns noted the council was not in a position to budget for potential injuries.
Burns made motion to approve the reduction. Councilmember Dewayne Schroeder seconded the motion, and it was approved by the council unanimously.
Murphy commented that despite this decrease in the department’s budget, Caledonia remains one of the most pro-police communities in the area.
Later in the meeting, the council approved the purchase of two computers for the Police Department secretary and police chief at a cost of $2,553.
Winnebago Street project
The council discussed the installation of a sidewalk as part of the upcoming Winnebago Street Project, which is part of the County State-Aid Highway 5 project.
Burns had previously spoken to a resident on Winnebago Street regarding the installation of a new sidewalk adjacent to her property, which included an active farm field. The resident felt it would be more logical to place the sidewalk on the residential side of the Winnebago, which Burns argued was a legitimate concern.
The project plan has already been submitted to the state for bidding with the sidewalk included. Burns informed the council the sidewalk could be removed from any proposal. This would not change the construction layout. Without the sidewalk, the city of Caledonia would have the option of installing “no parking” signs on the east side of the road and creating a walking path on the road itself.
The council took no action at this time, since the project would need to be bid with the sidewalk but the topic would need to be addressed prior to construction.