Need for public safety director questioned

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Photo by Whitney SagerPeter “Vinny” Smith was sworn in as the Nevada Police Department’s newest police officer. Smith is from Brooklyn, Iowa, and will attend the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy prior to beginning work in Nevada. Smith was sworn in during Monday’s Nevada City Council meeting by Mayor Andy Kelly.

The topic that garnered the most discussion during Monday night’s Nevada City Council meeting was not even an agenda item.

Councilman Chris Clark brought up the city’s decision to move forward with plans to hire a new public saftey director (PSD) after current PSD Jeff Theulen announced his resignation a few weeks ago. He said he has talked to 40 people, some solicited and some not, within the last week regarding the matter and said all of them were against the city finding someone to fill the position. With so many in opposition, it was Clark’s feeling the council should hold off on making a decision about whether or not to move forward with filling the PSD position until after the new council takes office after the November elections.

“Forty people out of 7,000 is not a lot of people, but it is people,” Clark said.

Nevada resident Rhonda Applegate was at the meeting and told the council she also would like to see the decision pushed back until the new council is elected. She said there are many people who are concerned about the issue and the council needs to take those concerns into consideration.

Mayor Andy Kelly said when new council members take office, it typically takes several months to get the new members adjusted to everything and make sure they are familiar with meeting procedures and what is going on. If the council waits to make a decision on whether or not to fill the position until the new council has taken office, it could be the middle of next year before the new council is ready to vote on the matter. He feels the current council is capable of making the right decision for the city regarding the PSD position.

“This council was voted on to make the best decisions they can make,” Kelly said.

Councilman Ray Schwichtenberg said the council made the decision to move forward with finding a new PSD because both the police chief and fire chief had voiced how pleased they were with the work Theulen was doing and the chiefs wanted to find someone to continue that work.

City Administrator Elizabeth Hansen noted the city has already posted the PSD job opening on several websites, with a deadline to turn in applications by Sept. 6. So far, three applications have been submitted.

Since the topic was not an agenda item, the council could take no action on the matter. Kelly simply asked for council members’ guidance on whether or not the city should move forward with the matter, to which all but Clark were in favor of doing. Councilman Brian Hanson was not present at the meeting.

Other items of interest

• Nevada residents will decide during November’s elections whether or not the city’s hotel/motel tax rate should be decreased. Council members had expressed an interest in changing the rate during last year’s budget council committee meetings. Currently the rate is 6 percent, but it has been proposed to reduce it to 5 percent. Per state code, a city’s hotel/motel tax rate cannot exceed 7 percent and any rate changes must be voted on by the public.

Hansen said the tax brought in approximately $9,500 last year.

The council voted unanimously in favor of putting the proposed hotel/motel tax rate decrease on the ballot.

• Also on the council agenda was the approval of purchasing two pursuit-rated police vehicles to be used by the public safety department. The vehicles will be large enough to hold EMT equipment to accomodate the police officers as they transition into becoming public safety officers. Nevada police officers are currently undergoing EMT training so they can alleviate the burden on volunteer EMT personnel during the day.

The lowest of the two bids submitted for the vehicles came from Ames Ford, with each pursuit-rated, all-wheel drive police vehicle costing $26,788. The bid also included the trade-in values for the department’s 1999 Ford Explorer, which has more than 97,000 miles and requires more than $1,000 in repairs, as well as the 2006 Ford Crown Victoria, which has more than 136,000 miles. After the $1,500 trade-in value for the Explorer and $1,000 trade-in value for the Crown Victoria, the total cost for the two vehicles comes to $51,076. The vehicles have been budgeted for in the Police Equipment Revolving Plan.

The council unanimously approved the purchase of the two vehicles from Ames Ford.

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