BLUE EARTH - Two of three remaining police officers in Blue Earth attended the City Council meeting Monday to ask why the council hasn't sought their opinions on what to do with the police department.
Todd Purvis, a 20-year veteran, said he and Tom Fletcher have a combined 33 years of service in Blue Earth, more than retiring Police Chief Dean Vereide. Purvis said they have concerns about the council's talks with the sheriff's office and the city of Winnebago about combining forces, and about the lack of communication between the council and the local officers.
"You're doing us a disservice," Purvis said.
He said making a deal with Winnebago is a short-term fix that could wind up costing the cities more in the long run.
"The city could save a similar amount by having a working chief with four officers and supplementing with part-time (help)," Purvis said.
Purvis said that at one time the local police department had seven officers, but every time one left, the council decided not to fill the position, in order to save money. In spite of this, the officers who remain do a good job, with a clearance rate of 55 percent, "which is unheard of," he said.
Purvis had praise for Winnebago Police Chief Bob Toland, whom Blue Earth officers would serve under if Blue Earth combines with Winnebago, but he said the arrangement would not benefit Blue Earth.
"You'll end up with a training department," Purvis said. "I haven't seen an officer stay more than four years in Winnebago because of their pay scale. Do you want to be the county seat with officers who have under five years of service?
"I still take pride in my job and will still do my job," Purvis said. "But to say I'll happily take a job with the city of Winnebago; I could make more on unemployment.
"Look at the whole picture before you make a decision, instead of a knee-jerk reaction to save $70,000," Purvis said.
"I'd welcome the chance to sit down with anyone from the council or (city administrator) Kathy Bailey to look at proposals," Purvis said. "We've never been asked.
"Law enforcement isn't what it was 25 years ago," he said. "We're professionals. We had to go to school to do this. I wish you'd give us the respect of professionals and ask us."
Purvis took his seat to applause from members of the public in attendance.
Citizen Corey Survis addressed the council next.
"I believe having an adequate police department is priceless," he said. "What we should be arguing about is how we can add more officers. Public safety should be considered."
Mayor Rob Hammond said the council does respect the officers, but working with the police union can be complicated.
Purvis said he could address the union issues and went over some of the correspondence officers had with the city over the negotiations.
"We've never been approved to sit down and negotiate," he said.
"There are numerous union issues and we are restricted on who we can speak to," said City Attorney David Frundt.
The council went into closed session for the better part of an hour. When the meeting was opened again, Hammond said the police union would be contacted and negotiations continued.
In other business, the council:
o Recognized Vereide's 31 years of service with the police department with a plaque and words of appreciation.
o Approved an order on a hazardous property at 523 E. Fourth St., owned by Albert Schobert. "The east wall has collapsed," said Frundt, "so we're asking the family to address the issue."
o Was informed by Bailey that the intersection of Second and Rice streets will be closed today and Wednesday because of repairs at a railroad crossing.