By Travis Mounts
Conway Springs’ city leaders held a workshop after last week’s regular meeting to begin discussions on what they want in their next police chief.
City attorneys Colin Wood and Gaten Wood helped guide the session. Colin Wood advised the city to start by setting ground rules for the search.
Wood then asked the council members to consider what they want in the future rather than what they did or did not like in the past. Those options ranged from city police coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week to turning all law enforcement over to the Sumner County Sheriff. Another option was to look at a mix of on-duty and on-call coverage.
Another consideration, Wood said, is whether the city wants to hire a “peacekeeper” or a “rule enforcer.”
The current budget calls for one full-time police chief, another full-time officer, and 2,180 part-time hours per year. That’s an average of just under 42 hours per week.
A number of questions still need to be answered, and many of them tie into the budget.
One question is whether to continue utilizing the current budget in the same way. Another question is whether the current budget is enough to hire the kind of police chief city leaders want.
Council members are planning to begin 2014 budget discussions at a workshop following next week’s regular meeting. Next year’s budget needs to be finalized and published by the end of August.
Wood advised the city to decide what it wants in a chief and what the expectations of the chief will be before making a hire. After some discussion, the general consensus was to leave the current full-time officer position open for now, leaving that hiring decision for a new chief.
Other questions centered on priorities. One example is whether the chief should view speeding as a big issue or not.
“Set policy (and) let them do their jobs,” Wood advised.
Frank Bartonek, the longest-serving council member did not advocate raising taxes, but asked council members if they were prepared to that if it was necessary. He said there was a time in the past where the city had a homegrown officer it wanted to hire as chief. The candidate wanted the job, he said, but the pay wasn’t enough to strike a deal.
The city already has to budget enough money to account for its new full-time EMS employee, April Addis, who is the outgoing police chief. City leaders have noted how difficult it is finding enough volunteers to staff EMS during daytime hours. What isn’t known is how much more might be needed to hire a new police chief.
City leaders seemed pleased with the discussion.
“We have to start somewhere and I think this is the right avenue,” said Mayor Dee Pettegrew.