Spring Grove Police Chief Paul Folz reported at the April 3 city council meeting that a phone survey of 563 residents received 50 votes to hire two additional full-time officers, while 56 voted no.

He asked the council to decide what to do about additional staffing, since he's been working around 250 hours per month since the city's only other officer left last fall.

"It should not take five months to fill a position," Folz said. "Are you going to keep it a one-man department? What do you people want?"

Folz has asked for either one or two additional full-time officers since Linda Coffield left the department. The council accepted her resignation on Nov. 15, 2011.

"I think we need more than one," councilmember Lorilyn Dehning said. "I'd hate to be in his shoes." Dehning said she favored a full-time replacement for Coffield.

Mayor Saundy Solum asked Folz to consider set hours, and let the county cover when he's off. She floated the idea of one and a half positions.

Folz noted potential problems, since unforeseen duties could keep a part-time officer on the books long enough to draw benefits.

Councilmember Robert Vogel agreed with Folz that it's taken too long to decide the issue, stating, "We've kicked this can about as far down the road as possible."

He said replacing Coffield was a good idea, but could not justify hiring two additional officers.

Councilmember Rachel Storlie also said Coffield should be replaced, but noted that many Spring Grove residents don't want to hire any more officers.

Resident Gary Hempel spoke in favor of more officers. "I just think Paul needs help, I think its money wisely spent," he said. "I don't know how one person can police the city alone."

"How can he say 'no' when people call him? If you want to take advantage of him, it's easy to do. If police staffing is reduced, I think you are calling into question the safety of our community," Hempel stated.

Resident Bruce Poole who is also one of the Concerned Citizens organizers stated that there is a petition circulating that already has 200 signatures, asking for a one-person police department.

Councilmember Steve Kemp asked to table the item for the next meeting. Solum agreed, but said the council needs to make a decision at that meeting on April 17.

Shade tree program terms set

The council voted unanimously to offer a 25% rebate on shade trees to homeowners for calendar year 2012. The program will be funded out of the electric utility fund, and it is aimed at reducing peak demand during hot weather.

Rebate forms, including a list of qualifying species, will be available at city hall, city administrator Theresa Coleman said.

Council members briefly discussed capping the rebate amount but left it off the motion, which was made by Storlie and seconded by Kemp.

Bulletin board purchase allowed

Approved by consensus, official notices will be posted on an outdoor bulletin board affixed to the outside of city hall. In the past, the notices have been put on the city's official bulletin board inside city hall, which is inaccessible when the facility is closed.

The previous council has notices posted at the post office bulletin board as well. This practice has now been discontinued.

The time when the board will go up and cost of the structure was not discussed, but Vogel stated that weatherproof bulletin boards varied greatly in cost from $100 to $1,000. Coleman was allowed to investigate the particulars.

Fest Building to get upgrade?

Folz asked for upgraded electric outlets on the exterior of the Fest Building so Syttendi Mai vendors don't trip breakers.

He brought a quote from Viking Electric for $1,545. Coleman was directed to get more quotes. No decision was made.

Other matters before the council

The council voted unanimously to donate $900 to the Music in the Park concert series, which is a joint project between the city, the Spring Grove Commercial Club, Spring Grove Lions Club and Legion Post #249 and Auxiliary.

Houston County Environmental Services Director Rick Frank provided a report on solid waste delivered to Xcel Energy in La Crosse, Wis. The document also highlighted recycling efforts.

Coleman noted that residents should take advantage of the county's prescription drug drop-off program, since it keeps drugs "out of our discharge report. And that saves the city on sewage treatment costs."

Another consensus of opinion was to allow Owen Vaaler to affix a directional sign to post of the Fest Building sign on the land in front of the Wilmington Mutual Insurance Co. building. The sign placement is being allowed in exchange for repairs he made to the city's sign.