Multiple guests were in attendance to present their support for the proposed police officer wage increase as well as to make a call to action at the Holyoke City Council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 19.
Dottie Drake led the visitors with an in-depth account of how her family has been affected by the current wages and extra-duty assignments that officers receive resulting from the department being understaffed. She also detailed the numerous school programs her husband, officer Larry Drake, has developed and how he has a close relationship with students in the school district.
Following Drake’s comments, Andrea McCallum and José León offered thoughtful support for the officers.
“It’s really great when you see things they’re doing to make your community safer,” McCallum said. “Then to hear that good officers are scraping the bottom of the barrel to make it work, it makes me sad.”
Both McCallum and León pointed out that they were unaware that the police officers were so underpaid, especially in relation to other departments in the region.
“It’s hard to believe,” León added. “We should do more to keep them here.”
The council agreed to boost current officer wages an additional $500 per month. This follows an Aug. 5 decision to raise starting officer salaries from $27,000 to $30,500. The Holyoke Enterprise incorrectly reported the new starting salary two weeks ago.
“We will make up a schedule of steps for officers from when they first walk in the door until they reach the sergeant position,” councilmember David Churchwell mentioned.
Police Chief Doug Bergstrom announced he has received two résumés for new officers and will continue to take résumés until Sept. 5. However, he does not expect to have a new hire on the force until late October.
Junk issues discussed
Other community members were present to voice their concerns regarding the junk ordinance not being enforced in the 200 block of South Belford Avenue and the 200 block of South Reynolds Avenue.
Similar accounts were shared by those in attendance. Some descriptions quoted included “unsafe,” “nuisance” and “disorderly conduct.”
“It brings the value of homes around it down,” Duanna Bradley said.
Bill Bradley, Lynda Hagemann and Denise Hagemann also were present to comment on the issue.
Bergstrom noted that on Aug. 4 an ordinance with a 20-day action period was presented to the offending parties. A citation was to have followed if the matter was not handled within that time frame.
City Attorney Al Wall suggested an abatement proceeding be considered. This process would authorize the city to take action if the property owners do not. The council agreed to move forward with the abatement process and to make it a point to focus on further areas of town in the future.
“We’ve voted raises for the officers. I think we need to see some production,” Mayor Orville Tonsing said regarding cleaning up the problem areas. “I think it’s well past time.”
KCI negotiations stalled
KCI representatives were not present at the council meeting, but they had given a response stating they could not afford the council’s offer of $500 per month for KCI to rent space to install equipment on the Holyoke water tower.
KCI stated that $130 per month was the best it could do. Negotiations are still pending.
City superintendent Mark Brown ran through the recent power outages, deeming them to be caused by wind and lightning.
He noted that new power fuses have been installed on South Worley Avenue near the construction of new duplexes.
Brown commended everyone who worked on the well at the city park when it burned out on Aug. 13, saying they made a fast turnaround and all is fixed and working properly.
A water main break near the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Kellogg Street was also promptly repaired, something León highly commended city workers on as well.
Brown was delighted to confirm that the Holyoke Swimming Pool repairs also have been completed following the flooding of the pool basement on July 22, and the pool is operational.
Brown gave notice that all engineering data has been received for restructuring and repair of South Sherman Avenue, but the work will likely be held up until 2015.
Bergstrom stated that no progress has been made in acquiring asbestos cleanup permits for the trailers at the mobile home park west of the airport.
In other business Aug. 19, the council:
—decided to withdraw the proposal for a lodging tax.
—noted a new groundskeeper, Jeff Reitz, began work at the Holyoke Golf Course Aug. 18.
—approved a special events permit for Phillips County Pheasants Forever on Nov. 8.
—agreed to pay 2014 membership dues to Phillips County Economic Development in the amount of $10,900.
—approved a $15,000 stipend for the Holyoke Golf Course to be used for the purchase of mowing equipment and maintenance materials.
—learned that the Great Outdoors Colorado grant application for baseball park improvements was completed and a decision should be received by December.
—created a committee consisting of council members Churchwell, Kevin Scott, Brian Akey and attorney Wall to devise an informational briefing to educate the community on council term limits.
—noted the construction of a new Viaero Wireless tower near the hospital.
Holyoke Enterprise August 28, 2014