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Student Resource Officer position given green light

Following up on work discussed at the May 30 work session, New Richmond City Council members approved a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the School District of New Richmond, contingent on a review by the city attorney, to employ a Student Resource Officer (SRO) in time for the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

New Richmond Police Chief Craig Yehlik summarized the responsibilities for the new position:

"An SRO is a career law enforcement officer with sworn authority, deployed in community-oriented policing and assigned by the employing police department to work in collaboration with schools and community-based organizations to (a) address crime problems and drug activities affecting or occurring in or around an elementary or secondary school; (b) to develop or expand crime prevention efforts for students; (c) to educate school-age victims in crime prevention and safety; (d) to develop or expand community justice initiatives for students; (e) to train students in conflict resolution, restorative justice and crime awareness; (f) to assist in the identification of physical changes in the environment that may reduce crime in or around the school; and (g) to assist in developing school policy that addresses crime and to recommend procedural changes."

The preliminary discussions about the new position allowed the chief to identify three officers within his department who have expressed interest in the new position. Should the hire come from within the department it could help with meeting the abbreviated timeline considerably.

The new position will be based out of the high school with the officer expected to spend roughly 50 to 60 percent of his or her time at the high school while splitting the balance between the middle school and elementary schools including St. Mary School.

The officer would be expected to sync his or her schedule to the school calendar ideally taking vacation during the summer break. The officer would also be expected to pick up regular duty shifts during the summer. In addition to policing and programing within the schools, the officer would be available to work at extracurricular activities like sports, music and theater events.

District Superintendent Patrick Olson assured council members the district was committed long-term to the position as well as funding for their portion.

"We plan to apply for the grant on an annual basis. We've had discussions based on what does this (position) look like in the future. Will it diminish? I think it will go the opposite. If we are successful with the grant then we would have further conversations with the board about collaboration with the city as far as putting an officer at the middle school also. Our funding source is Fund 80 so we can include St. Mary in that formula," said Olson.

Yehlik confirmed that keeping drugs off campus and working to determine the root causes underlying persistent issues of drug use, truancy and mental health challenges would be part of the job. Promoting a positive relationship, building a rapport with all students and staff will also be a priority.

The position as it is structured would need to be approved each year.

City Administrator Mike Darrow confirmed the City will continue to submit grant applications soliciting funds to pay for the city's portion.

Preceding a unanimous vote to approve the city's newly updated comprehensive plan, Community Development Director Beth Thompson recognized the more than 900 hours invested by the citizen volunteers of the Community Action Plan (CAP) Group. Glass plaques were awarded to the individual volunteers in gratitude for their service. CAP members Mark Evans, Peter Kling, Melanie Folk, Katie Wendt, Jeremy Poole, Ben Kurth and consultant Todd Streeter were present to accept plaques.

Other business

• Mayor Fred Horne reported that due to a shortage of volunteer firefighters, many local departments are having to ask other nearby department personnel to sit in for them when calls deplete their manpower.

• New Richmond Regional Airport Director Mike Demulling that the airport will be the only regional source for a rare commodity, a newly developed unleaded fuel for airplanes starting in July.

• The City Council renewed its annual contract with WITC Cable Television. The agreement expires June 30, 2019 with a base value of $15,500 and an additional $4,000 available to pay for hourly labor. The total contract is not to exceed $19,500.

• Council members approved a bid from Fahrner Asphalt Sealing LLC worth $16,806.48 to conduct fog sealing on designated streets throughout the city.

• Council members approved hiring on a contract basis not to exceed $10,000, the services of Cedar Corporation consultant Seth Hudson to work with Forward New Richmond.

• Council members approved the bid by Carlson Dettman for $19,950 to conduct a comprehensive compensation and benefit study to evaluate the competitiveness of cuty salary and compensation packages. The study is expected to be completed by the end of September. Costs for the study will be shared equally by the general and utility funds.