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Dorchester OK’s sheriff’s policing contract

A Clark County deputy will soon be patrolling the village of Dorchester on a regular basis after the village board approved a contract last week for temporary police protection from the sheriff’s department.

Under the agreement, a deputy will be assigned to the village for regular patrols, including nights and weekends, and will also attend village board meetings to present a monthly report. The contract also authorizes the deputy to enforce all of the village’s ordinances and issue citations.

Sheriff Scott Haines will maintain supervisory control over whichever deputy is assigned to the village, and will have the final authority to temporarily reassign the deputy in an emergency. However, a village liaison will work with the patrol captain to concentrate patrol efforts or work on special assignments.

Last month, the village board voted to spend up to $4,000 per month on police protection from the county. This amount was included in the final version of the contract, replacing a provision specifying an average of 30 hours per week. The actual number of hours per week will vary depending on whether the deputy is working regular or overtime hours.

This was one of the changes made by village attorney Bonnie Wachsmuth, who suggested revisions to the first draft written by county attorney Jacob Brunette. The final version also includes a hold harmless provision and liability waiver for the village in the case of an injury, lawsuit or other claim.

According to deputy clerk Christie Erikson, the sheriff is OK with the suggested changes. The village’s insurance company has also suggested some revisions that still need to be incorporated.

Once the contract is signed, she said a representative from the sheriff’s department will check to see if the village’s squad car is compatible with their equipment and if the office accommodations are workable. The sheriff also wants to go over some of the village’s older ordinances to make sure they are up-to-date with current law, Erikson said.

Dorchester has been in need of police protection since the end of July, when police chief Gary Leichtman retired and officer Consuelo Maldanado resigned.

Looking ahead, the village board has decided to keep its own local police department by hiring either a police chief or an officer on a permanent basis.

Erikson said the police committee has eight applicants for the position and is preparing to do interviews.

“From what I’ve heard, they’re all newer, like fresh out of the academy, and they’re all from big towns,” said trustee Keith Lageman.

According to the village’s 2020 budget, Dorchester was projected to spend a little over $116,000 on its police department this year, which included $75,000 for the wages of the chief and part-time officer.

As of September, however, the village had only spent 50 percent of its police budget, compared to 84 percent expended at the same time in 2019.

Trustees reviewed a proposed 2021 general budget that includes about $1 million in expenses and revenues, including a property tax levy of $235,193 — an increase of $1,953 over 2020. As written, the general fund budget is left with a contingency of roughly $27,000, or about 2.7 percent. The budget includes about $159,000 in debt payments and assumes 3 percent raises for village employees.

As part of their budget review, trustees discussed the possibility of selling the village’s police squad vehicle to the water department as a replacement for a van that is on its last legs.

Schwoch said this would be a better deal for the village than trying to sell the police vehicle on the open market.

“The last time we sold a squad, we got nothing for it,” Schwoch said. “We practically gave it away.”

Trustees also reviewed the 2021 budgets for the water and sewer utilities, with particular attention paid to a looming deficit in the sewer utility.

Utility operator Rick Golz said the cost of complying with new phosphorus limits — through extra chemical treatments and discharge penalties — is driving up costs.

The board was able to balance the sewer budget with a tiny contingency left over, but Schwoch said that won’t last.

“We should keep in the back of our minds that we might have to raise our sewer rates,” he said. “We’re right down to pennies.”

Other business

_ The board approved the village’s share of the 2021 Central Fire and EMS District budget, which will drop from $39,579 to $26,309. The board also recently committed to spending a total of $14,000 on resurfacing a portion of the local fire station’s parking lot.

_ Erikson told the board that the clerk’s office will be closed Nov. 24-27 so she can take some time off. She said the village hopes to have a new clerk-treasurer starting the following week so she is no longer the only one in the office.

_ The board was informed that both the park corporation and the cemetery association have agreed to handle the payroll services for their own employees so the village does not have to officially oversee those workers. The village had been handling those employees’ payrolls, but the village attorney said that was only legal if they were fully considered village employees.

_ The board voted to assign new addresses to four properties: 107 E. Business CTH A for a building recently purchased by Jeff Molitor and 300, 306 and 404 Willow Court for three new homes being built by Mid-Country Homes to house their employees.

_ The board voted to spend a minimum of $600 to re-key the door knobs at all village buildings, with the understanding that some doors may cost more if a new pin or handle is needed. Going forward, trustees said they want better records kept of those who have keys.

_ The board voted to deny a sewer credit for the house at 107 S. Third St., which had a leak in the basement water meter. Trustees reviewed the property’s average water consumption, and did not believe the water leak fully explained the increase in usage.

_ The board approved $3,500 in repairs done by Staab Construction at the water treatment plant.

_ The board approved a $13,639 contract with Municipal Well & Pump to chemically clean out iron deposits from the water utility’s stripping tower.

_ The board assigned trustee Tom Carter as the village’s primary representative on the Central Fire and EMS board, with trustees Clem Klimpke and Eric Klemetson serving as alternates.

_ The board approved the village’s 2020-2021 snowmobile route, which was left unchanged from last winter.

_ The board authorized trustee Daniella Schauer to get more information on a bid submitted for razing a dilapidated garage and lean-to at 128 S. Second St. The bid from Bruce Arthurs, which was the only one submitted, totalled $15,000 for removing the structures and storing the contents for 60 days so the owner has time to claim them. However, it also said the prices were negotiable.

_ Raises were approved for village employees after the board met in closed session. Two-dollar hourly raises were approved for public works manager Clint Penney and utility manager Rick Golz, who were both brought up $25.25. Public works employee Randy Geiger also got a $2 raise, up to $23 per hour. A $1.75 hourly raise was approved for deputy clerk-treasurer Christie Erikson, bringing her to $19 per hour. The IRA contribution for full-time employees was also increased to $200 per month.