by Dave DeMars
The St. Joseph City Council chose Dwight Pfannenstein as the new chief of police at its June 18 meeting after wrestling with the question of whether or not the position should be posted and more applicants solicited. The council made the offer on the condition Pfannenstein announce publicly that he’s withdrawing as a candidate for Stearns County sheriff.
Pfannenstein replaces Joel Klein, who resigned recently after complaints were lodged against him. The nature of the complaints has not been divulged by the council.
Mayor Rick Schultz gave a brief rundown of the personnel-committee action, saying the committee, made up of himself, council member Dale Wick and administrator Judy Weyrens, had met and rather than posting the job, the committee recommended the council promote Pfannenstein to chief of police.
Pfannenstein had been serving as interim police chief up until Schultz suggested he fill the position permanently. The recommendation apparently caught some council members by surprise.
“I know this is the first-time discussion and everything,” Schultz said.
Newly seated council member Anne Buckvold said she appreciated everything the police in St. Joseph have done for the city but wondered about the degree of trust that had been restored.
“I am just thinking about – would it be better, in an effort to make sure we have the trust of the community in place, to go through a formal hiring process where we open it up?” Buckvold asked.
Schultz admitted it certainly was a possibility but Pfannenstein had sought the position once before.
“He was right behind Joel (former police chief Joel Klein) in the interview process,” Schultz said.
Schultz went on to say Pfannenstein could well have been chosen at that time and that he was very professional and knowledgeable so far as police work was concerned. Given his previous performance, it’s likely he would end up being the chosen candidate.
Council member Bob Loso said he was in favor of opening up the process and looking at other candidates. He reminded the council Pfannenstein, while filling the role of interim police chief, had already filed to run for Stearns County sheriff in the November election.
“He has already filed for sheriff, so that shows his dedication to this department,” Loso said. “That doesn’t rate good with me. I think we should go out and post for a new police chief. If Dwight wants to apply, he can.”
Loso went on to remind the council that previously they had filled the position from within the ranks and it did not work out well. A new face in the department might be good for the department, he said.
Council member Buckvold said her concerns should not be construed as being about Pfannenstein but rather just having an open and fair process.
Administrator Weyrens reminded the council of the process used the last time. With 10 candidates they had to winnow the applicants, and in the end they selected an internal candidate anyway.
Loso offered a motion for a broad public search, but the motion failed 2-3 with Loso and Troy Goracke voting for the motion and Schultz, Wick and Buckvold voting against it.
Schultz then offered his own motion to offer the position to Pfannenstein with the condition Pfannenstein remove his name as a candidate for sheriff. Since the time for removal from the Aug. 14 primary has passed, Pfannenstein would have to publicly announce he is no longer in the running. Pfannenstein accepted the offer last week.
Schultz’s motion passed 4-1 with Loso voting against it.
The council took up the issue of the cable franchise with Charter Communications. The council must post the fact they will be taking an action at the next regular meeting. Terms will be similar to what is now in effect.
The council also started the process of tinkering with the budget. Part of the discussion revolved around the building of a new cold-storage area to house equipment and vehicles that are currently stored at various sites within the city. This would make it easier to access equipment. There is plenty of room for the building at the present maintenance facility site.
Another part of the budget discussion revolved around street improvements and what kinds of improvements the city would be planning for 2019.
A third portion of the discussion concerned itself with combining some projects started in 2018 with other projects slated for execution in 2019. The Pondview project was specifically mentioned as a possibility.
Loso put forth a request the various departments try to find ways to save taxpayer money. He also wanted the completion of alley projects.
After Buckvold raised the question of creating a skateboard park, it was acknowledged the city had skateboard park equipment, but it wasn’t being used. St. Joseph Maintenance Director Terry Thene said the equipment was not in good repair and that is why it has not been put in place.
Part of the problem is there hasn’t been a permanent site for it, and setting up and tearing down has caused excessive wear.
Schultz suggested an effort be made to rehabilitate the equipment and put it to good use.
“Otherwise it’s just sitting there and turning to rust,” Schultz said.