City approves giving police more recruiting tools
Medford Police Chief Chad Liske has a new tool to help with recruiting future officers.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, council members unanimously approved an option for the city to sponsor a candidate to attend police training academy and pay them while they are undergoing that training.
Under the program, a prospective officer would go through the normal preemployment interview, screening and psychological evaluation process and would be hired and sworn into the department prior to beginning the 720 hour academy training. While in the training, the candidate would receive a training wage of 75% of the new officer starting wage as well as city medical and dental benefits.
Liske said he worked with the police union representative Richard Burghaus to develop a memorandum of understanding that would be signed by the prospective officer which states that if the candidate fails to finish the academy training either by dropping out or failing, they will be responsible for repaying the city for the cost of the training. The date of hire would be when they were sworn in, but seniority would begin to accrue upon completion of the academy training.
The agreement also requires the candidate to commit to working for the department for at least three years. Liske noted the union had advised against this requirement over a concern it would discourage people from applying, Liske said he saw it as a positive to get someone who is interested in staying in Medford.
Liske said he still would prefer to hire someone with experience or who had completed the training and was ready to start right away. However, the change gives him the ability that for the right candidate they would be able to get them on board.
“It broadens our pool rather than limiting it,” Liske said.
Later in the meeting, following a closed session, council members approved the hiring of Josh Budimlija to fill a vacant officer position. Budimlija is currently with the Taylor County sheriff’s department and has 8 years of experience with that department. The city is starting Budimlija at a 95% wage for his probationary period with the city and credits him with five years of service for benefits. Liske noted that Budimlija’s city badge number will be No. 47 which was last used by former police chief and current city council member Ken Coyer.
While this fills the position that has been open since last summer, Liske said with the announced retirement of Det. Mike Schroeder in January, they will be beginning the process of setting up an eligibility list and going through the hiring process again.
The city of Medford will be closing another tax incremental district, but before it does it is getting one more year of increment payments with those funds targeted to promote affordable housing in the city.
According to city coordinator Joe Harris, the Affordable Housing Extension allows the City to collect one more year of TID revenues to be used for housing stock anywhere in the City limits. Seventy-five percent of the money needs to be used for low to moderate income housing. The remaining 25% can be used for any residential housing in the City.
In TIDs, the city retains the portion of the taxes on improvements to the property that would normally go to the county, school district and technical college. The money is used to pay for projects set out in the TID plan and approved by a joint review board made up of representatives from each of those government entities. Harris noted that while TID 6 is listed as “distressed” all of the district’s outstanding debts have been paid.
Harris supported the one-year affordable housing extension as a way to boost housing efforts in the city.
“Other communities that have implemented the extension have had great success in increasing housing availability for low to moderate income residents,” Harris stated in a memo explaining the plan. “There are several ways that the money can be used to help residents with updating current housing stock. A few examples are interest free loans for new windows, furnaces, replace sewer or water services that have failed, new siding and curb appeal,” he stated, noting the money can be used anywhere in the city.
According to Harris, the extension does have to go through the joint review board and only requires council action.
In related action, council members voted to close TID 6 following the one year extension as part of the creation of TID 14 which includes the apartments and residential development on Pep’s Drive as well as areas of the industrial park.
In other business, council members:
Approved the sale of lot 30 in the new subdivision being developed at the south end of Pep’s Drive. The purchase price of the lots is $12,000 each with sewer and water connections in place. Under terms of the sale, the city requires a home to be built on the lot within two years of the sale. According to Mayor Mike Wellner, there has been a lot of interest in the parcels and he expects more to be sold in the coming months.
Approved a 3% wage increase for non union employees. This matches what was approved for the police union.
Approved a 2% increase for the city’s employee health insurance. The employees pay 15% of insurance costs while the city pays 85%. In related action, the city will keep the health savings account contributions to employees the same as in the past.