By Aaron Eberle
Edgemont’s City Council held a regular meeting on January 20, at 7 p.m.
After general meeting openers, Josh Buckwheat gave the law enforcement report (see page 6). There were no questions at that time for Deputy Buckwheat.
Councilman George West gave the report for the Public Works Committee. The crew has been doing some odd and ends. They fixed a water break on Seventh and M Street, been mixing sand, cleansing the shop, finishing putting the Christmas lights and decorations away, working at the lift station and other things.
Mayor Carl Shaw reported that he has been helping the Public Works Crew at the lift station. Shaw has also been helping get ready for the chlorine testing.
Dakota Pump and Control provided a quote for a new control panel for the lift station. This would help with certain problems they have been facing. Council approved this.
Sheriff Bob Evans spoke to the council about their current contract and service, as well as hiring a new deputy.
So far, Evans has had 12 applications for the deputy position. One of the stipulations for this position is they must live in Edgemont. Some have declined because they did not want to live in Edgemont.
Evans has started conducting interviews. He is hopeful that a decision will be made soon on this process. Evans asked the council if there is a certain time frame after he has made the hire, that they want the deputy to be there. Evans wanted to give the new hire plenty of time to contact their current employer (two week notice) and maybe a little time to find a place to live in Edgemont. The council was good with up to 30 days. Some of the people he has interviewed would be more interested in buying a house in Edgemont as opposed to renting. Hopefully something will be resolved soon.
Some of the applicants that Evans has are not certified yet. They will start training with officers right away, most of it being in the Edgemont area. At some point they would have to go to the academy at Pierre for a 13 week course to be certified.
Several questions were posed to Evans about service the City was getting with their current contract. Some concerns were raised about if they were getting their money’s worth at $115,000.
Evans said that a full time deputy in Edgemont would receive about $54,000 in wages. Other deputies that patrolled the area during their shifts would figure to around $31,000. That would leave $30,000 left of the original $115,000 for maintenance, gas, dispatch, etc.
Evans also stated that the City of Hot Springs pays the County $55,000 for radio/dispatch services alone.
The City of Hot Springs has budgeted $600,000 for their own police force. This included seven full time officers and four reserve officers. The reserve officers are unpaid volunteers.
Mayor Shaw stated that New Underwood’s contract was for $40,000. Buckwheat commented that sometimes comparing contracts are like comparing apples and oranges. Bigger town, counties, geography, more law enforcement and other factors make a difference.
When Martha Jarman was hired as a deputy, most of her time was spent in Edgemont, but she provided service elsewhere in the county as needed. A new deputy in Edgemont would provide similar services. Hours for a deputy in Edgemont could be flexible. They would be expected to get a full shift in during a 24 hour period, but Evans feels that it wouldn’t necessarily have to be all at once.
Councilwoman Barb Strozewski asked Evans if the reason Martha was no longer a deputy, but working in dispatch, was Bob’s doing. Evans could not comment on this. Trudy Dibble, the administrative secretary of Hot Springs Police Department, assured the Council that this decision was not Evans’.
Councilwoman Carla Schepler is concerned about kids and teachers running stop signs. She feels that it would be beneficial if there was a presence at the school when it started or after it got out. Sometimes it is very hard for law enforcement to be every where at once.
Evans can not right traffic violations from a call in, but recommends that people do call so they can make more of a presence or build a case. Evans also agrees that visibility is important, but again stressed that sometimes it is hard to be everywhere at once.
The City of Hot Springs make new hires sign a contract stating that once they are certified they must stay with the City for two years. This two years would start from the date of certification. Fall River County does not have this in place.
Evans also stressed that it takes a certain type of officer to deal with a small town. Not every officer wants to live and work in a rural area. They are more suited for a bigger city or county.
Evans also stated that pay is hard to compete with sometimes. Starting wages for an officer that is not certified is $14.50 an hour in Fall River County. A certified officer starts at $16.50. These figures go up pretty rapidly, but sometimes the call of higher starting wages in other cities or counties, makes them more appealing.
Evans stated that Custer County’s wages are very comparable to Fall River County. Places like Sturgis or Pennington County are much higher.
Dibble commented that she has worked at her job for 30 years. She has seen a turnover of 18 officers in that time. Factors like higher wages elsewhere and the lure of a bigger city or county seem more appealing.
Evans stressed again that he can’t fix something if he doesn’t know it is broke. As of this time, Fall River County is providing 60 hours of work for a 30 hours a week contract. He also needs people to call to be able to work more effectively.
Strozewski asked what Evans thought of a Neighborhood Watch Program. Evans has never personally worked with one before, but could help find information about how to start one. Buckwheat also commented that this could be something that would work well with the current Fall River County Sheriff’s office. Strozweski also commented that she feels they want to be careful with the next step. This also involves the citizens of Edgemont.
Evans strongly suggested that they call his office or his cell phone if they thought of more questions or had other concerns.