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CAPD still looking for ways to add 9th officer

By Kevin O’Brien

As the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department looks at adding at least one more officer to its ranks next year, police chief Jason Bauer says he is considering a variety of options to pay for the position.

However, an idea floated at Monday’s Colby-Abby police commission meeting — using TIF money to pay for a police offi cer — is not allowed under Wisconsin’s tax incremental financing law.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the cost of police protection is not an eligible expense for TIF districts, which are supposed to be used to pay for infrastructure improvements and financing incentives to support new development in a designated area.

The confusion over using TIF money for police officers may have come from Act 58, a law passed by the legislature in 2017 that established special provisions for so-called “electronics and information technology manufacturing (EITM)” zones. TIF districts in an EITM zone are allowed to spend TIF money on police and fire services, within limitations.

However, the EITM designation was created specifically for the FoxConn facility in Mount Pleasant, located in Racine County. In traditional TIF districts like the one Abbotsford has, “general government operating expenses, unrelated to the planning or development of a tax incremental district,” cannot be paid for with TIF money, according to the state statute.

TIF funds can be used to cover a portion of wages for some municipal employees, but only for work “directly related” to creating TIF district or time spent implementing the TIF’s project plan.

Still, as growth has skyrocketed inside Abbotsford’s TIF district, the need for police protection has also gone up.

In asking for a ninth officer, Bauer said he is only responding to the recent surge in Abbotsford’s population due to the construction of seven new apartment buildings for Abbyland Foods employees.

“How do you grow a city and not grow the police department?” he said. “It’s got to come from somewhere.”

Bauer said the department’s next hire will need to serve as both a school resource officer (SRO) for the Colby School District and as a patrolman for the area’s expanding population.

That’s because the Abbotsford School District is looking to hire the department’s existing SRO, Pat Leichtnam, full-time as both an officer and a social worker for the district.

The SRO was originally hired to split his time equally between the two neighboring school districts — while also providing an extra officer for the CAPD during the summers — so that agreement will need to be changed if Leichtnam works exclusively in Abby’s schools.

Bauer said Colby superintendent Steve Kolden told him that his district does not want to lose the 50 percent SRO position, so the department would be looking for someone who could spend at least part of his or her time in Colby K-12 schools.

With the Abbotsford School District willing to fully fund Leichtnam’s position, Bauer said the Colby School District would then cover 37 percent of a new officer’s wages and benefits.

Based on a conversation he had with Abbotsford’s DPW, Craig Stuttgen, Bauer was hoping to pay for the remaining two-thirds of the new officer’s wages and benefits with TIF money. However, since that is not an option, it remains to be seen how the CAPD would pay for an additional officer, even if it received partial funding from the Colby School District.

Another side issue is the possibility of the CAPD providing police coverage for the village of Dorchester, which recently lost both its longtime police chief and part-time officer.

Bauer said Dorchester’s village president, Kurt Schwoch, recently contacted him about providing a cost estimate for the village, and Bauer says he has put together some preliminary numbers, but they’re “not set in stone.”

If the CAPD were to provide coverage for Dorchester, Bauer said he would want to hire two additional officers just to make sure both Dorchester and Colby-Abbotsford are getting round-the-clock coverage. Once officers start responding to calls in another jurisdiction, he said they end up having to follow through with full investigations if there is no local department in place.

“I’m not interested in providing parttime coverage,” he said. “It’s all or nothing.”

Bauer said he also expects to present a preliminary 2021 budget proposal at next month’s commission meeting, so the prospect of hiring additional officers will be part of that discussion.

Other business

_ The commission approved $16,994 in monthly expenditures.

_ During his monthly chief’s report, Bauer said SRO Leichtnam is back on light duty after suffering a knee injury earlier this summer.

_ The CAPD’s K-9 was deployed six times in July, resulting in five arrests.