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Rushford sets preliminary levy

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Sep 14th, 2012
Posted in Rushford Government

Having no increase last year, the city council has preliminarily set the 2013 budget levy at 2.9 percent. The increase would garner $762,000 in funding for the city, which City Administrator Steve Sarvi indicated would assist in building back fund balances responsibly. The levy amount is only a starting point for fall budget talks. The final levy can be certified at a lower amount, but once the city designates a maximum, it cannot be raised.

In other news, Rushford’s new police chief, former Sergeant Adam Eide, has hit the ground running in his new position. A plan for the department, including new initiatives, was presented and met with appreciation from the council. Programs targeting safety, school to work for those students interested in law enforcement, programs relating to drug and alcohol awareness for the school district, the presentation of a large-scale mock accident, and even summer fun activities for geared for local businesses were on the short list of initiatives.

The implementation of a K-9 unit in Rushford, however, was of high interest. Eide has already been working with Deputy Jeff Ellis of Mower County in seeking a police dog for Rushford. Ellis has great experience with training dogs for law enforcement and has consistently trained the number one police dog in the country for the last five years. The addition of a dog would be of no initial cost to the city with Eide assuming ownership responsibilities, including standard care and the initial purchase of all equipment, other than a protective vehicle insert and securing insurance through the League of Minnesota Cities.

The cost of the dog itself is also covered, as Eide has currently been training a dog at his home for Ellis. Instead of wages, Eide will be compensated for his work with a pup to train for Rushford. The dog would be able to assist with a various degree of needs including drug detection, and would be certified for street work one year from pick up. “It’s my goal to have the number one police dog in the country and I think it’s doable,” said Eide.

The police department has also moved forward with the hiring of a third full-time officer to fill the vacancy left with former chief Stensgard’s retirement. Officer Chris Frick, who served the city part-time, has been hired in a 3-2 vote, with Councilors Roger Colbenson and Robert Dahl opposed due to concerns over the need for three full-time officers and a tentative agreement with the Village.

“I think we need our third full-time person back on,” stressed Eide. “It’s a lot to do for two people. We’re looking for your help to continue to serve the people.”

“Chris has a unique skill set,” added Sarvi. “He’s worked with out department and others. He did an excellent job setting up the bike clinic. I support his hiring if the council so desires.”

It is unclear at this time if the Village will proceed with an agreement for the services of the Rushford police department, but neither Sarvi, nor Mayor Hallum thought such an agreement would have much weight with the city’s decision to hire a third full-time officer. Sarvi indicated the amount of the agreement would certainly be an aid to the city, but that it would not cover the cost of the position and that Rushford needs the position, whether the Village proceeds with an agreement or not. “Looking at budgetary numbers, there’s no reason not to do this,” agreed Hallum.

The department will already see $30,000 in savings this year, due to lower paid officers filling both the full-time and part-time positions. Frick’s addition to the full-time rotation will keep Rushford at 22 hours of coverage, although Eide hopes to up that to 24-hour coverage at some point.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, September 24, at 6:30pm, at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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