Potential incentives for East Grand Forks Police Department received feedback from council members

EAST GRAND FORKS – East Grand Forks City Council members on Tuesday discussed potential hiring incentives for the short-handed East Grand Forks Police Department.

The conversation comes as the department is down two officers. Chief of Police Michael Hedlund said the department has only received one applicant, who ultimately wasn’t employed.

As police departments across the state are struggling with hiring new officers and retaining current staff, council members reviewed the potential rates for retention bonuses, hiring bonuses and relocation bonuses. The discussion came during a Tuesday evening work session.

For the proposed hiring bonus, $2,500 would be given when a new employee starts and another $2,500 would be given after the completion of field training. New employees moving from out out of town would be eligible for up to $2,500, based on expenses.

Also discussed was a retention bonus that would give $3,000 to officers who’ve been at the department for between two to four years, $4,000 for those who are with the department for five to nine years and $5,000 for those who are with the department for 10 years to retirement.

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The impact on the budget based on average new hire numbers, and assuming full staffing levels, is estimated to be around $115,000 per year. It is currently included in the proposed 2023 budget. Several council members expressed concern over the impact the bonuses would have on the budget.

Council President Mark Olstad said while the bonuses will certainly have an impact on finances, the incentives are worth it if they result in filling empty spots at the department.

“I think, short term, it needs to get done. I think we need to make sure we’re taking care of them — making sure we’re getting the two officer positions filled,” Olstad said.

Council members reviewed the currently drafted memorandum of understanding regarding the incentives and whether there should be two MOUs — one specifically for hiring incentives and the other for retention incentives. Council members are set to discuss the incentives again during next week’s City Council meeting.

In other news Tuesday, council members:

Considered a report of feasibility for street and utility improvements on Fifth Avenue Northeast from 15th Street Northeast to 20th Street Northeast. It’s estimated that the existing concrete is around 46 years old and in poor condition. Improvements would entail replacing existing broken concrete street panels and sections of concrete curb and gutter along with replacing the catch basin and manhole casting assemblies. The estimated total cost of the projects is $686,469, with $205,940 being assessed to property owners and the rest being funded by Federal Subtarget Funds and State Aid Allocation Dollars.Reviewed a request from the Parks and Recreation Department to authorize Widseth to prepare plans and specifications for improvements on LaFave Park. The request comes as the Parks and Recreation Department has received a fully executed grant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the LaFave Park project and is now authorized to begin spending funds on the project. Work will be done on the boat ramp, parking area, picnic shelter at the softball fields and on the park access road, including making ADA improvements along that road. The total project cost is estimated to be $1,213,536, with $870,580 coming from the 75% matching grant from the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, and $342,955 coming from a 25% local match.

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