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Whitewater panel seeks more money for chief search

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Kevin Hoffman
April 27, 2011
— Whitewater’s Police Commission will ask the city for more money to conduct its search for a new police chief, determining Tuesday the $8,000 already earmarked might not be enough to find the right candidate.

The commission received seven bids from agencies willing to do most of the legwork—advertising the position, reviewing applications and conducting background checks. Five of the bids were more than the city council approved for the search.


Commission members briefly discussed the remaining two applicants before considering whether the budget was too restrictive. They also questioned what expenses counted against their budget and which ones would be picked up by the city.


“I think now is a bad time to pinch pennies,” commission member Dennis Knopp said. “We can coupon clip any other time, but come on.


“(If) things don’t go right, all we do is a grab a mirror and we found the person that screwed up.”


The bids were as high as $21,500, and the five that were initially dismissed averaged about $7,000 over the commission’s budget. One of the submissions didn’t include duties such as conducting final interviews. Another would not consider more than 25 applicants without levying extra charges.


A short review of the remaining applicants prompted the commission to reconsider its spending. Jim Olsen, the city council’s representative on the police commission, agreed that sending the issue back to the full council was a good plan. The motion was unanimously approved.


He said the $8,000 budget was based on older bids and other information provided to the council. He believed the latest round of submissions might force the full council to reconsider.


“This is an important position,” Olsen said. “Just because we want to save money, we shouldn’t not get the best candidates out there.”


Knopp noted that the city could save money through the police chief’s salary, since a new hire likely wouldn’t make the same as the former chief.


Jim Coan retired from the force in early March after 18 years, accepting a job as chief of the Centennial Lakes Police Department, north of Minneapolis. He said the position allowed him to be closer to family.


The Whitewater City Council weeks later unanimously voted to waive a $10,000 penalty against Coan for terminating his contract early.


The police commission during its last meeting named Lt. Lisa Otterbacher as interim chief while the panel enters the early stages of selecting a new chief.


The city council could discuss the commission’s budget for finding a new chief at its next regular meeting, Tuesday, May 3.



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