by Dennis Dalman
Last year, Sartell police officers and support staff had to work harder and go the extra mile because of a lack of three officers – one who died after a medical operation, one who retired and one who transferred to another department.
Sartell Police Chief noted that situation in the annual police-department report submitted to the city council at its March 23 meeting.
Other department reports were also submitted to the council. The following are brief highlights of the 2014 reports by the police and fire departments and by the public-works department. (Please note that highlights from other city departments were presented by Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll during her recent “State of the City” address, as reported in the March 27 Sartell Newsleader.)
During 2014, there were 14 full-time officers working for the police department, a shortage of three, as mentioned above. There were nine Reserve Program officers also working.
Hughes called it a “difficult year” because of the lack of the three officers. The difficulty was compounded by the fact the city continues to grow in every way. The annual report, however, shows police-department employees were able to make up for the slack, pull together and do an enormous amount of not only hands-on police work but also extensive community-outreach efforts.
The following are some notable items in the police report for 2014:
- Initial-complaint reports (calls police dealt with and made reports on) decreased slightly last year, from 11,618 in 2013 to 11,478 in 2014.
- Some of the more serious crimes reported in 2014 were 37 assaults (60 in 2013), 33 burglaries (28 in 2013), 60 drug offenses (54 in 2013), 36 DWIs (33 in 2013), 13 cases of alleged criminal sexual conduct (17 in 2013), one kidnapping (a woman who claimed she was kidnapped when her car was hijacked by a man in the McDonald’s parking lot, an alleged crime still unsolved) and one homicide (a man shot to death during a drug deal at PineCone Marketplace in south Sartell).
- There were 450 medical calls in 2014 (in large part attributable to the growing number of senior-citizen living units in the city).
- Reserve officers, all volunteers, donated a total of 2,968 hours of service in 2014, which is the equivalent of $72,000 in wage value. (“I am very in debt to them,” Chief Hughes told the city council.)
- Police officers participated in 1,333 hours of extra training in 2014, including sessions concerning tasers, rifles, handguns, defensive tactics and field-sobriety testing.
- Once again the police department reached out to the city and its residents through a huge variety of programming, including the following: Metro Citizens Police Academy, Neighborhood Watch, Shop with a Cop, Seniors and Law Enforcement Together, Coffee and Conversation, Child Restraint Inspections, Bike Rodeo, Cookout with Cops, Police Activities League, Welcome Packets, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (also known as DARE), Gang Resistance Education and Training, Family Group Counseling, School Liaison (two full-time officers to that program), the Police Department website and its Facebook (some of its information attracted 174,000 viewings).
Since the police department only has one official crime investigator, others must step in to help when investigative work becomes too much. Hughes told the council the department could definitely use one more officer.
Council member David Peterson said he is a firm believer in strong community policing in which officers mingle with the public. Hughes said in addition to the many public-outreach programs, he would like to do even more with some officers perhaps doing bike patrols to visit with business owners and pedestrians gathered here and there.
“You’re doing a great job,” Peterson told Hughes. “If you need more officers, please bring that (request) forward.”
Other council members also praised the department.
“Thank you for all the efforts you folks make to be part of our community,” said Amy Braig-Lindstrom. “Community engagement does have a positive effect on the community. I am in support of your additional needs.”
“Thanks, chief,” said Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll. “You guys do a great job. Your department is certainly something to be proud of.”
Sartell Fire Chief Ken Heim had good news for the city council in his report, with a fairly low dollar-estimate damage because of fires and no injuries or deaths.
Fire and emergency calls to the department were 116, down by 28 calls from the year before. The total fire calls for within the Sartell city limits were 104, a decrease of 22 from 2013.
The total estimated dollar loss from city fires was $50,0702, which was $3,248 less than the year before.
The Sartell department received and answered four requests for mutual aid from neighboring cities – two from St. Cloud, one from St. Joseph and one from Sauk Rapids. Sartell requested and received mutual-aid assistance from three other departments for a fire at the abandoned paper mill – one each from St. Stephen, Rice and St. Cloud.
The average response time from when a call came in and when firefighters were at the scene was 6.13 minutes per call. The busiest time of day for calls to the department was 5 p.m. The second and third busiest times were 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
LeSauk Township fire and emergency calls were eight, down from 18 the previous year. That estimated dollar loss was $1,000.
The fire department added two new firefighters to its crew in 2014.
“I want to thank the firefighters for everything they did in 2014,” Sartell Fire Chief Ken Heim said in his report. “Their efforts of time and commitment have shown they are highly trained and true professionals. They are very dedicated to the community and the people and property they protect.”
The Sartell Public Works Department, led by Brad Borders, maintains most of the city’s 41 parks, as well as 50 miles of trails, 16 of which are maintained and kept open in winter.
In 2014, the department’s workers seal-coated 22,000-square yards of roadways, an ongoing process, year after year.
The compost site is thriving, with 200 non-residents having purchased permits to use the site, 34 of them from LeSauk Township, the rest from surrounding cities. That, Borders said, was a “nice increase,” and there is still room at the site for more people to use, both residents and non-residents, as long as they get permits from the city.
There were two water-main breaks in the city, the last one on the city’s east side, another reminder, Borders said, the east side is overdue for infrastructure improvements.
To plow after a 6-inch snowfall it takes the city crew about eight hours for a cost of $8,700. On weekends that cost goes up to $9,600, mainly due to overtime wages.