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Some concerns voiced by public at Hancock city council meeting

After taking care of some regular start-of-the-year business and holding a public meeting for the Wellhead Protection Plan, the Hancock City Council opened the floor to anyone before council. Allen Thiel was present at the meeting to address two issues, one with the police department and one with the fire department.

"First of all, I heard a lot of comments about the article in the paper about the police officer" said Thiel. "I don't think I have heard very many good comments about it as far as not doing any research on it. My question is, as a taxpayer in the city is, what are we getting for the money we are spending? Figure out all the cost, wages, the car, office, uniforms, I think that number is getting up into $80,000-$90,000 per year. With an officer not living in the community at 40 hours per week, 3.8 percent of the time we have an officer in the town. Is that what we really want as taxpayers?"

"I have nothing against Matt" Thiel went on to say. "As the comment said in the paper, he may be the right man for the job, but for $100,000 don't we really want to look at what our options are? We are going to rely on the Sheriffs Department for over 75 percent of the time."

Councilman Bruce Malo and Mayor Bruce Schmidgall clarified that the city had at one time looked into county police coverage. This was over a year ago or about the time that they were looking into the purchase of a new police car. The cost at that time was $36,000 per year for 10 hours per week of coverage.

"We didn't review other options at the time we hired Matt because we had looked before when Don was still here" said Schmidgall.

There was some discussion about the fact that Flogstad will not be in town and available for on-call situations and the fact that Flogstad will be on-call even when not working.

"Just to interpose here" Flogstad said. "you were relying on the Sheriff's office when you had Don here too. It was a 40 hour position which is what Don worked also so when Don wasn't working, the Sheriff's office was in town. The amount of time covered hasn't changed since I took the position."

Flogstad added that in the city employment package there is no 'on-call' rate. "I am not being paid to sit at home and wait for the phone to ring" he explained, "There is nothing being paid out for that time."

Thiel then went on to ask council to give the fire department some direction in regard to the gambling manager for the Fire Department Relief Association and the city employee policy about living or working within 15 miles of the city.

Dean Jensen, the current gambling manager, lives in Graceville and no longer works in Hancock. According to city employee policy, to be on the fire department the employee must live or work within 15 miles. The main question about his position is if he can remain on the Fire Department Relief Association if he is not a member of the fire department. If he can be a Relief Department member, he can be employed by that department instead of the city as the gambling manager and not have the distance stipulation.

The fire department will be holding their annual meeting soon and would like some direction from the council as to what to do with the gambling manager position. The fire department also has money tied up with Jensen's job as they have paid the gambling manager license fee through the end of June.

Since the council members did not know the answer to the question about being part of the Relief Association when not a member of the fire department, they could not make a definite decision. They discussed allowing Jensen to remain as the manager until the end of June to correspond with his license, and in the meantime looking into the matter regarding the Relief Association.

Other business

* Police Chief Matt Flogstad asked council for some direction in regard to enforcing the truck route policy. There is no definite weight limits, maps or penalties set in place. The city may have to look into more signs, perhaps setting weight limits and more defined routes.

* The city clerk is looking into the past three years of excise tax that has been paid for fuel in the police and fire vehicles. This tax can be reimbursed under state law.

* The city fee schedule was approved adding in some more detailed ones from the police department and some increases to base fees in sewer and water.

* A donation was approved of $750 to the Stevens County Economic Improvement Commission.