Wauapca reviews 2017 budget, staffing
By Angie Landsverk
The addition of a full-time drug officer in the Waupaca Police Department is expected to be part of the city’s 2017 budget proposal.
“Our community, as well as other communities, has a drug problem – opioids specifically,” Interim Police Chief Brian Hoelzel said during the Aug. 16 meeting of the Waupaca Common Council.
As he looks at the number of drug complaints his department is investigating, Hoelzel believes they are doing more reactive than proactive work.
“I’m looking for a full-time drug officer (to be added) sometime after July of next year,” he said.
Hoelzel’s comment took place during a budget workshop within the council meeting.
The discussion was about personnel issues and how they will affect next year’s city budget.
He said many crimes in the community are related to drugs.
Noting needles are being found, including in city parks, Hoelzel said all city vehicles are now equipped with sharps containers.
“I’d like to address the problem we have,” he said.
Involved with a regional drug task force since 2002, Hoelzel said from early on, he did a lot of undercover work.
At that time, a small number of the 15 departments involved in the task force had drug officers.
“Now, only three of the 15 departments don’t have a drug officer. We are one,” Hoelzel said.
He said this type of work currently falls on the department’s detective sergeant.
Hoelzel held that position until being named the interim police chief in early June, following the retirement of Tim Goke.
In his experience being the detective sergeant, Hoelzel said he knows how difficult it is to also be the department’s drug officer.
Before making the council aware he will ask for a new position as part of the 2017 budget, Hoelzel was among those commenting on a proposal to make the city’s IT/communications specialist position into a department head position.
City Administrator Henry Veleker told the council he will propose doing so.
Josh Werner holds the position, and Veleker said he has been functioning as a department head for some time.
“I think it is justified,” Veleker said.
He spoke to the city’s other department heads and believes the proposal is not disputed at that level.
“Josh is very valuable to our department,” Hoelzel said.
He said Werner has done a “superb job” whenever asked to do something and goes “above and beyond” what is expected.
Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson said he supports Werner’s current position becoming a department head position.
“He does the work of 1 1/2 to two people,” Jenson said.
The IT/communications specialist is among the positions in the city which will be affected by a U.S. Department of Labor rule related to overtime regulations.
It will become effective on Dec. 1.
The rule raises the ceiling upon which an employer does not have to pay overtime for a salaried employee from its current salary level of $455 a week to $913 a week – or $47,476 for a full-year worker.
This rule raises the salary level for the first time since 2004.
Veleker told the council the city has a couple positions which will be impacted by the rule.
He said in some cases, the salaries of the positions will stay under the new, higher threshold and overtime will be managed.
In other instances, there will be recommendations to bring the salaries of some positions up to that higher level, Veleker said.
“The impact will not be too onerous on the budget,” he said.
Next year’s budget proposal is also expected to include a request for a part-time employee in the city’s Finance Department and a discussion about how to handle the vacant emergency management coordinator position.
Steve Fenske resigned from that volunteer position several months ago.
Veleker said the city’s options include maintaining it as a volunteer position, making it a paid part-time position, including the duties within a current city position and seeing if the county’s Emergency Management Department may play a role in it.
The city’s department heads are scheduled to present their budgets to the common council on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
A public hearing on the city’s 2017 budget, followed by council action, is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Nov. 15.