The Clarkfield City Council has played a long game of 'will they, or won't they' in respect to the possibility of disbanding the Clarkfield Police Department in favor of contracting for police services with the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff.
The latest swing in the oscillating drama points to 'they won't' after councilmen began to bring forward proposals to improve the department and the department's scheduling of officers.
At their regular council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19 councilman Dave Biermaier revealed a checklist of sorts for the Clarkfield Police Department to achieve in an unspecified amount of time (though councilmen did intimate that changes should take place in the span of a couple months). Biermaier also detailed for the council a new schedule for the department that will require the department's one full-time officer, Chief Ian Hodge, to work five eight hour days, rather than the four 10 hour days Hodge has been working most recently. Also, Biermaier stated that in the next few months' time, he would personally be evaluating the department and its progress on the changes outlined by the council.
The basic theory the council seems to be operating on is that before relinquishing control on police services, they should do everything possible to make their own department work. If the city does contract with the county it will be only after trying to bring their own department up to an organizational and budgetary standard. If after doing that, the county sheriff is still the best option, it will make their decision that much easier.
The checklist prepared by Biermaier and the council for the department's full and part time employees includes, but is not limited to: Daily logs turned into the city administrator at the end of each shift; monthly work schedule must be given to city administrator three days prior to the end of the preceding month; contracted hours and mileage for the city of Boyd must be given to city administrator by the fourth day of the month; officers remain in city limits except in times of emergency, assisting other officers, trips to Boyd and the courthouse; respond to public in a timely fashion for 'permits to buy' and 'permits to carry' applications; get accident reports done in timely manner and delivered to those requesting them; work with building inspector and city crew, city council and city administrator to further the health/safety of the residents of Clarkfield; maintain files on all current and past ordinance violations like abandoned vehicles, junk garbage, animals, vacant and unkept structures, zoning issues, confiscated vehicles, etc.; and use money from the budget to have a safe/secure animal kennel.
"These items are intended to clarify the job description," said Biermaier of the expectations for the police department.
Those expectations, said the council, are to take effect March 1.
Page 2 of 2 - Over the past couple of months, during discussion about the possibility of contracting police services at least eight Clarkfield residents have spoken at meetings in support of Police Chief Ian Hodge and the Clarkfield Police Department.
The council, meanwhile, has walked a fine line; maintaining that the discussion of contracting is not a personal attack against Hodge, or his department. Yet, it is obvious to see the difficulty of such a message.
In earlier discussions, Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten promised Clarkfield his department could locate and dedicate an officer to the city at a cost of roughly $96,556.
For comparison, the Clarkfield Police Department budget for 2013 is estimated at $118,000. Yet, when revenues are subtracted, that amount would be closer to $104,500.