Purge the Merge and other Village Business

Posted November 28th, 2011 @ 7:12 AM by

The Village/Town of Cottage Grove merger talks merger talks have been put on hold. I have written before on the merger talks, here and here. After having spent thousands of dollars on studies and brought in speakers telling us why the Verona city/town merger failed, things have been put on hold because of a He Said/She Said disagreement between the Village and the Town.

There appears to be a lack of trust between the Village and the Town

Town Chairman Kris Hampton immediately motioned for the committee to postpone meeting until Jan. 9, at which time they would vote on the need to continue with the process.

“I think there is a lack of trust between the town and village at the present time to move forward on the merger,” Hampton said. “It gives us time for the village to make some changes to some ordinances and to its comp plan.”

It also appears that while the relationship has never been picture perfect, many hard feelings come from the Village’s attempt to hire a “Village Only” Police Officer who would patrol ONLY the village but also wanted the town to help pay for this position. The town, of course protested this(they protest any spending), and it led to hard feelings with both sides unwilling to compromise. Despite the fact that the scheduling of such a position would be almost impossible to accomplish, and the officer in charge (Sgt. David Stortz)was against it, it did not stop either side from digging in their heels.

He said it would force the police department to continue to have only one officer working per shift on three days of the regular six-day rotation for each officer.

Per the police department’s union contract, each officer works a six-day on, three-day off rotation.

According to Stortz, if a village event occurs on the weekend, the village only officer may not be available due to being in the three-day off portion of his schedule. He said the officer would need to be paid overtime to staff an event if it occurs on a regular day off.

Stortz said because the village only officer’s shifts would be considered separate from the main schedule, anytime that officer took off for vacation or sick time, it would need to be filled by another officer who would be paid overtime.

Because the village-funded officer currently operates as a normal officer, Stortz said it is easier to move a shift to cover an open shift due to absence.

In addition, Stortz said managing and scheduling the village only officer would be more of a burden on a supervisor.

“It will make the department weaker rather than stronger,” he said. “With a unified department, one community is experiencing issues and all of our resources can be focused on finding a solution. If you have a divided department, you are now limiting your resources.”

Trustee Paula Severson let it be known despite the many objections she wanted this position to go through.

Severson said the village could not worry about whether this issue would affect the merger.

“From this point on, any forward progress we have we can say, ‘what if we merge?’” she said. “That is a big what if. I don’t think police will be a deal breaker.”

Sgt. Stortz asked the Village Board to table this decision for a year but that was not good enough for Trustee Jeff Weigand – “I’m so pissed with the town that I want to do this now,” Weigand said.

So it appears that since we do not have a Village Board or a Town Board who are willing to compromise, its time ti pull the plug on the merger talks for now and stop spending thousands of dollars on studies.

A quick aside>

* There seems to be a disconnect between campaign rhetoric and reality. Trustee Paula Severson while pushing for the “village only” police officer said “I am hearing concerns about alcohol and drugs,” she said. “I am hearing we need more police presence.” Yet the fact that Cottage Grove police services were at 2005 levels, certain candidates (if I remember right Severson herself) ran on the issue of maintaining police services. From the presidential contenders website.

Mike worked very hard to preserve our quality public safety services. Despite the serious impacts of the recession, the police department, the fire department and the Deer-Grove EMS service were not required to take any funding reductions.

Yes the Village Board had worked so hard to preserve our public safety that we now need “more police presence”. Of course that is not even taking into account that the way to help solve the drug problem that Severson is so passionate about:

Severson said even if a police officer is not dedicated to the village, she would work to help solve drug problems in the municipality.

“I don’t want to bury my head in the ground,” she said. “If it isn’t a village funded position, if it is a detective, let’s talk about that. I am not going to rest on this.”

There are numerous ways to help solve this problem and all involves a comprehensive approach with such approaches as decriminalize marijuana, invest in treatment and education programs, have options for kids to do after school(like a public library or teen center maybe), make sure people have jobs, and yes increasing neighborhood police presence(among many other things) helps as part of a total plan. I am for helping with the drug “problem” but let’s get serious and really address the problem not just try to score political points.

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