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New Richmond eliminates one police supervisory position

After months of debate, the New Richmond City Council has decided to force the reorganization of the local police department.

At its regular meeting Monday, the council voted unanimously to remove funding for a third patrol sergeant position within the department.

The position has remained open since the death of Scott Turbeville last October. Turbeville was the night patrol sergeant for the department at the time.

Since then, council members have questioned whether the police department could still operate effectively with one less supervisor on the payroll.

They answered that question Monday.

Alderman Ron Volkert, a former St. Croix County sheriff's deputy, said due to tight economic times it was a good idea to scale back. By eliminating one sergeant position, the city would save between $80,000 and $90,000 a year.

"That's a lot of taxpayer dollars we can save," he said.

Volkert said it's unnecessary to have three supervisors working the day shift. The police chief, lieutenant and a sergeant have all been scheduled for work during the day, and they supervise two patrol officers during that shift, Volkert explained.

"The police department can operate without filling this position," he suggested.

The city continues to look at ways to save money, Volkert said, noting that a street department and a maintenance position have already been scaled back.

"When you add all these savings together, it turns out to be a lot of dollars," he said.

Mayor Fred Horne said the proposal to remove the sergeant position just impacts the police department budget. It will be up to Police Chief Mark Samelstad to reorganize the department as he sees fit, he explained.

"It wasn't stated which sergeant position it would be," Horne said.

In other personnel action, the council approved a request to hire a replacement for an open position in the street department crew. The department was cut back by one employee after a recent retirement, so they were down to six employees. With the recent death of longtime employee Michael Geraghty, the crew was down to five employees.

Street Superintendent Dan Koski said to keep up with the workload, a replacement needs to be hired by the summer.

The council voted unanimously to proceed with the posting of the job opening.