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Police schedule debated in Star Prairie

A dispute over when the Star Prairie police officers should be on duty boiled over at last week's regular village board meeting.

Village Board Trustee Bruce Johnson presented a proposed schedule of hours that officers should be on duty in the coming weeks. The schedule allows for a total of 70 hours a week of coverage during any pay period. About the only week that remained open on the schedule was Ox Cart Days week in August.

But Trustee Chris Boardman questioned the schedule, noting that the police chief is the one who is supposed to submit the hours covered and the village board is supposed to approve or adjust them then.

Johnson said he thinks the Police Commission (made up of himself and Village President Greg Gibson) should be the ones setting the schedule.

Gibson said Police Chief Steve Lewis doesn't have a set schedule and often works hours that don't meet the needs of the community.

"He just shows up whenever," he said.

Johnson said the community needs more coverage around bar closing and during high traffic times, when vehicles often speed through town.

"I want to make it understood ... you work for us, we don't work for you," Johnson said to Lewis.

Trustee Andrew Marrier said he'd like to see the police department write more speeding tickets in the future, and others on the village board agreed.

Lewis responded by saying that meeting the schedule expectations of the board will be easier now that a part-time officer has been hired. Derek Posey was introduced to board members at the July 10 meeting.

Johnson also said he had an issue with Lewis' decision to conduct a background check on Posey prior to hiring.

"I don't think it was necessary," Johnson said.

Lewis said such background checks are mandated by the state, and the new officer didn't have a problem with a check being ordered prior to hiring.

In other business:

-- The board approved a new schedule of fines and fees related to traffic and other municipal violations. Because the village has discontinued its municipal court, the community now must collect an additional $119.50 in fees to cover the cost of having the county handle each case. As an example, the fine for alcohol in the park, which was previously $166, will now be $285. Speeding tickets will also be $119.50 higher, as will fines for barking dogs.

Trustee Gary Peterson said he thought the fines were "pretty excessive."

"We're not going to be real popular in town after this," he predicted.

Village Attorney Tim Scott said the higher fines would serve as a deterrent for those who might commit a crime.

The board approved the new fines, but agreed to review the matter in six months or a year.

-- The board approved $44,000 to pay for the village's portion of the upcoming Highway 65 resurfacing project.

-- The board approved a request to allow the new Star Prairie Farmers' Market to operate in the parking lot next to the Community Center on Thursdays through Oct. 24.

-- The board tabled a proposed amendment to its ordinances related to noise limitations and noise pollution prevention. The board wants to further study how the new limits will be enforced and what the appropriate allowable decibel levels should be.

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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