Council considers ways to attract, retain officers

Candy Neal/The Herald
The City of Huntingburg is looking into ways to attract and retain police officers at the Huntingburg Police Department.

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — How to attract and keep police officers for the city became a big topic at the Huntingburg Common Council’s meeting Tuesday night.

Council members were in agreement that they want to do what they can to keep officers on the force, something that has been a challenge for several local police departments.

“We’re losing one now,” Mayor Steve Schwinghamer said, “for a better paying job.” He added that local officers have been or are being contacted by other law enforcement departments interested in adding them to their force.

“Everybody here loves to be here. But money talks,” he said.

A survey was done to look at pay ranges for positions in Huntingburg, Jasper and Dubois County in comparison to other surrounding departments. Schwinghamer noted that the local ranges are on the lower end in comparison to the other departments.

Councilman Jeff Bounds said there are other nearby places that officers can go to make more money. He would be in favor of increasing the pay, but would like to learn if there are any other reasons playing a factor in why officers are leaving Huntingburg.

“I think we need to pay close attention to why people are leaving,” Bounds said. “While salary has a role, there are things that we maybe could do that may take people’s eye off of that and focus it more on other things.”

Work has been done in the past to increase officers’ salaries, Councilman Tim Wehr said. Also, there have been officers who came to Huntingburg from smaller departments.

“I think what we did in the past has helped out and slowed (the number of officers leaving) down,” he said. “You’re always going to have people leaving, no matter what you pay them.”

The trend seems to have been that officers get training and experience here, and then go somewhere else. “We’re a training ground,” Schwinghamer said. “If we can see our way to something better than, then I’m all for it.”

Max Rasche, a Southridge High School student and member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, added that the school has a law enforcement class. Some students who have taken that have decided to go into law enforcement. “I’m not sure if they are planning to stay local or not,” he said.

“Those are the ones we want to keep,” Schwinghamer said.

The perception of police across the country has made recruitment difficult everywhere, Schwinghamer said. “They’re having a hard time finding good people,” he said. “Since we got them, we want to try to keep them.”

Council members discussed increasing salaries by 5%, but nothing has yet been decided. Schwinghamer and Clerk-Treasurer Tom Dippel will look at the costs associated with increasing officer salaries by 5% as well as what is offered at other law enforcement departments. Schwinghamer hopes to bring that information back to the next council meeting.

With that, the council introduced the 2022 salary ordinance, which allows a pay increase up to 5% for employees. Schwinghamer plans to suggest that a 4% across-the-board increase be given to employees since the last increase, for 2021, was 1.5%.

The council also:

• Congratulated and welcomed Rasche, who was elected by his peers to be the liaison between the common council and the youth council.

• Approved the city’s 2022 budget, which will be sent to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for final approval. The total budget stands at $10.2 million, which is less than the 2021 budget; $5.8 million of that will come from tax revenue. The tax rate will likely be $1.14 per $100 of assessed value, which is less than 2021’s rate of $1.16 per $100 of assessed value.

• Heard about the decision to make Dubois County a vote center county. That means that voters can cast their ballot at any of the vote centers within the county on Election Day, not just at their polling place. Dubois County Clerk Amy Kippenbrock explained the plan and told the council that traffic may increase at the Huntingburg Event Center, which is the voting location in the city. Two additional voting machines and two more poll workers will be added to the site, she said.

• Heard from Kippenbrock that the council will have to work on redistricting to even out the four districts in the city. That work has to be completed by the end of 2022, but City Attorney Phil Schneider said it would be best to complete this sooner than later.

• Accepted a donation agreement from Hunters Crossing owners for land southeast of Progress Parkway; the land is valued at $57,816.

• Suggested that a committee be put together to study and determine where the next sidewalks work should be done. Schwinghamer said he will work on putting together a committee.

• Set trick-or-treat hours for 5 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31.




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