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Pine River City Council adopts three-year police contract on split vote

On a 3-2 split vote, the Pine River City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 11, voted to approve the 2012 and 2013-15 contracts with its police union.

Council members Ron Derksen and Tamara Hansen voted in opposition.

City Attorney Ted Lundrigan presented the contract proposals to the council. This is the first time the city has negotiated and approved a three-year police union contract.

The 2012 police union contract, which will expire at the end of the month, calls for a wage rate of $16 per hour for officers who are not in a probationary period.

For 2013, a probationary officer must complete his trial period before receiving a raise up to $16 an hour. Officers not on probation with at least two years of service will receive $16.50 an hour, according to the new contract.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, wages will increase 50 cents per hour to $16.50 and $17.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, all wages will be raised to a level that all police officers with at least two years of service will receive $18 an hour.

Even though the three-year contract will end Dec. 31, 2015, the city and police union committed to an $18.50 per hour wage for officers beginning that same day, Lundrigan told the council.

The city employs Police Chief Paul Sand, two full-time officers and a temporary part-time officer.

The council also voted 3-2 for a wage increase for City Clerk-Treasurer Wanda Mongan, changing her job to a salaried position to make it in line with other department heads.

Council members Tony DeSanto and Hansen opposed the motion.

Mongan has served in the position for 28 years.

Mayor Jim Sabas and council member Patty Melby met with Mongan previously for an employee review and discussed the wage increase and changing her to a salaried employee.

In 2013, Mongan’s annual salary will increase from $43,763.20 to $45,760. On Jan. 1, 2014, Mongan’s salary will increase to $49,920. The wage increase will not raise her department’s budget. Instead, Mongan said she would find ways to reduce her department costs to make up the difference.

“Who’s not going to find the money in their budget?” Hansen asked.

Hansen said she was “disheartened” by the increase. She said the union contract negotiations and subsequent wage increases brought “everyone into a spiral with wages.”

The mayor pointed out that Hansen’s husband, Mike, who serves as the city’s public works director, also has benefited from a salary increase. He said Mongan has worked for the city longer than anyone there.

“Where does it stop?” Tamara Hansen asked.

The council approved the final 2013 levy at $373,871.

The council approved the 2013 joint powers agreements for law enforcement services with the neighboring cities of Chickamaw Beach and Backus. Sand said Pine River officers will patrol Backus at a minimum of 20 hours per week, a cost of $2,988.91 per month. Pine River officers will patrol Chickamaw Beach for a minimum of 30 minutes within a 24-hour period, a cost of $90.90 per week.

Derksen asked why the two cities would not be seeing any increased costs in police services while Pine River residents would because of police wage increases that the council had just approved.

“Shouldn’t their costs go up if our costs are going up?” asked Derksen. “I don’t want my constituents paying more for the same thing.”

“I understand that,” Sand responded.

Sand said he is new to the position and took over as interim police chief during negotiations with both cities this fall. He said he will be looking at increases for law enforcement services for both cities and the PR-B School District for next year.

The Backus City Council on Monday, Dec. 17, approved the police contract with Pine River.

Sand said his department this month had 39 verbal warnings, seven drug charges and responded to 25 medical calls. The police chief said they are continuing to investigate a case where 20 vehicles were egged. Three of the vehicles had other damage.

“We’re getting close,” Sand said to finding the suspects.

The council approved a $25,000 revolving loan for a new used car dealership in the city.

Tim Sweet told the council he’s hoping to open Sweet Cars LLC Jan. 2 at the empty lot at 112 Front St. N. Sweet told the council he will open with about 20 vehicles for sale with a goal of working up to a lot with 50-60 vehicles for sale. The loan is a five-year loan at 5 percent interest.

Fire Chief Kevin Kleiner said this month his department responded to a structure fire, with mutual aid from Pequot Lakes, and had one fire call to assist the DNR. He said his fire department also responded to numerous medical calls and a couple of accidents. He said 10 firefighters took part in a house burn the week before in Backus.

Mike Hansen, public works director, told the council his department is looking into downsizing the number of streetlights as a cost-saving measure. He said the city has about 137 streetlights and about 24 of them are considered non-essential. They aren’t located at intersections or can be found mid-block or at the end of a property owner’s driveway.

Hansen said he’d like to move three of those streetlights to intersections that don’t have lights. Removing the non-essential streetlights would save the city about $2,500 a year, said Hansen.

“It won’t be a popular decision to remove lights,” said Hansen. “Everyone wants their personal yard light.”

The streetlight issue will be discussed at the next planning meeting.

The council approved business license renewals for Community Bowl, Ole and Lena’s Sweet Revenge and Iron Hills North Gun and Pawn.

The council hired part-time bus driver Scott Fagerwold for the Ride With Us Bus.