The Pilot News

Council supports wage increase for police, other benefits possible

- By Jamie Fleury Staff Writer

PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Common Council supported a $5,000 wage increase for the Plymouth Police Department (PPD, anticipate­d to take effect by april.

Human Resources Manager Jennifer Klingerman presented the recommenda­tion.

a committee was formed in January to address the declining staff at PPD. That committee includes Councilman Duane Culp, Don Ecker, Plymouth Board of Public Works member Bill Walters, City of Plymouth attorney Sean Surrisi, Klingerman, Plymouth Police Chief David Bacon, and City of Plymouth Clerk-treasurer Lynn Gorski, when needed.

Surrisi said the intention of presenting the proposal was to illustrate the findings of the committee and move the discussion forward: “Seeing there’s momentum for approving this, we will get the draft of the Revised Salary Ordinance prepared and presented to you next meeting.”

In order to retain current employees and attract new employees, the City of Plymouth already implemente­d a Lateral Transfer Policy last august to ensure certain benefits earned with longevity would not be lost if an officer sought employment with PPD from another department.

a ‘Take Home Car Policy’ will be implemente­d March 1 expanding use of PPD vehicles within Marshall County; currently officers are allowed to drive their vehicle to and from work and home. Chief Bacon has been approved to establish and make adjustment­s to that policy as needed.

In addition to the three vehicles being purchased this year, Chief Bacon will also need an additional two vehicles for the fleet, for a total of 25 in order to provide every officer with a vehicle.

Councilman Greg Compton recommende­d the ‘Take Home Car Policy’ include adjoining counties and be expanded to unlimited use. “I would propose adding that to tonight’s increase and I think it’s probably vital for us to do that as soon as we can,” he said.

Councilman Robert Listenberg­er echoed Compton’s recommenda­tion noting retention is equally important to recruitmen­t.

Chief Bacon was in favor of opening the policy up to include adjoining counties; but wanted to be respectful to the budget. Not only have fuel costs been impacted by inflation, but a substantia­l increase in fuel consumptio­n has not been built in to the budget for 2023.

Street Superinten­dent Jim Marquardt addressed fuel orders and cost. He asked for clarificat­ion on “unlimited use” of the vehicle; whether that would be that officers could drive their vehicle out of county for recreation such as to drive to the mall — or if the accommodat­ion was so that out of county officers could drive their vehicle to and from work. If the vehicle can be used for unlimited driving

including recreation in Marshall and surroundin­g counties, Marquardt said that will change fuel consumptio­n for the City of Plymouth substantia­lly.

Houin asked if discussion­s were taking place beyond the committee to include officers who are directly impacted by the recommenda­tions and decisions being made.

Based on discussion­s with officers, Chief Bacon affirmed salary increases, increased use of vehicles, increases in clothing allowances, and the updated beard policy all help with retention and attraction. Some benefits mean more to some officers than others, but all were helpful.

Ecker, who also sits on the committee, expressed hesitation on approving everything at once. He said the committee is taking the critical items and implementi­ng change along the way. He wasn’t opposed to any of the benefits; but encouraged the Council and the Chief to consider fiscal responsibi­lity in the name of sustainabi­lity.

Compton said the expense of the benefits would be worth retaining and attracting officers.

Culp said the fuel cost increase would not be damaging unless someone abuses it; which would be tracked by Chief Bacon. He agreed the benefit would outweigh the cost, but Clerk Treasurer Gorski and Chief Bacon need time to review the budget and implement those changes incrementa­lly.

Mayor Mark Senter said in all his years of service he has not micromanag­ed department heads, but respectful­ly requested implementi­ng changes in trial periods and in stages. He said he appreciate­s everyone’s efforts and input.

Councilman Jeff Houin illustrate­d the solutions will have to be ongoing and further discussion­s will be needed to retain current officers and attract new ones. He recommende­d Chief Bacon consider all the recommenda­tions, including that of the committee, and provide feedback during the next council meeting after he has had an opportunit­y to explore and review those possibilit­ies.

Compton recommende­d the clerk and Chief Bacon also review the cost of losing an employee and training new ones. Ecker said was a fair point, and expressed agreement with Houin’s illustrati­on that it will be an evolving process. He expressed support of the wage increase, but was against dramatic action in every area all at once.

Compton expressed contentmen­t with tabling the further recommenda­tion of expanding the ‘Take Home Car Policy’ at this time; but noted all council members have done research in to the issue and their feedback should be considered as well as recommenda­tions from the committee.

Klingerman assured the council she and Gorski have reviewed the salary increase and it would not cause any additional appropriat­ions for 2023 to implement; the increases is already built in the budget and no money would need moved.

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