By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — Following the retirement of Elk Mound Police Chief Randy Bartelt, the Elk Mound Village Board has started discussing what to do about the village’s police department.
Captain Mike Tietz of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department outlined options for the Elk Mound Village Board at special meeting November 28.
Tietz also is an Elk Mound resident.
The village’s options for the police department can range from eliminating the department and contracting through the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department to hiring a new full-time police chief to hiring a part-time police chief and a part-time police officer, Tietz told the village board.
Going through the process of hiring a new police chief will take three or four months, he said.
Tietz recommended that the village take adequate time to hire a new police chief.
“You do not want to not go through the effort and then end up with someone who is not capable or is not willing to stay or who has a criminal background,” Tietz said.
Hiring a qualified and capable police chief will reduce the resources needed from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, he said.
“We are willing to work with Elk Mound to get someone the sheriff’s department can work with as an asset and not someone who is a liability,” Tietz said.
In the short term, the village will need a person who can maintain the day-to-day operations of the police department and to provide services to the village, such as enforcing traffic laws and compliance with village ordinances, he said.
If the Elk Mound Village Board decided to eliminate the village’s police department, two options would exist for police protection, Tietz said.
Village residents could call the sheriff’s department and then wait for the next available deputy to travel to Elk Mound, he said.
The village board could also contract with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department for a certain number of hours per week, and then a sheriff’s department deputy would be assigned duty hours in Elk Mound, Tietz explained.
The problem with contracting with the sheriff’s department is that Dunn County is already under-staffed, and the department would have to hire another deputy to cover the hours at Elk Mound, Tietz said.
The village would spend as much or more on a full-time deputy contracted through Dunn County as the village would spend on hiring its own police chief, he said.
Dunn County has the lowest per capita ratio in the state of deputies to the number of residents, Tietz said.
Sheriff Dennis Smith has tried for many years to convince the county board to hire more deputies, but so far, he has not been successful, he said.
The Village of Elk Mound spends around $70,000 annually in salary and benefits for a full-time police chief.
Contracting with the sheriff’s department would be an option to consider if the village board wants to eliminate the police department but still wants regular police services, Tietz said, noting that a contracted deputy would use the village’s squad car.
Tietz recommended that if the village board were strongly considering eliminating the police department, it would be a good idea to hold an advisory referendum to find out whether village residents support the idea.
Village Trustee Jackie Swartz wondered about combining police departments with, say, the Village of Colfax.
Combining two departments would create the same problem of getting a law enforcement officer to the village when needed, Tietz said.
Elk Mound could also possibly share a contracted deputy with another municipality, such as Knapp, but that, too, could create problems with an officer being in the village when needed, he said.
Several village board members wondered about a constable or a marshal, but after discussing it as an option, decided that it would not offer anything more than a part-time officer.
A constable or a marshal could be either an appointed or an elected position and duties could be assigned as the village board chooses.
John Higley, the village’s attorney, also attended the meeting and noted that he could not find a village in the state with a constable.
Tietz said he, too, had not been able to identify any village in the state with a constable.
Pat Hahn, village clerk treasurer, noted that an individual does not need to be a law enforcement officer to be elected as a constable.
The Elk Mound Village Board requested that the Dunn County sheriff put together more information about contracting with the sheriff’s department.
Tietz offered to volunteer his services for administrative duties at the Elk Mound police department until the village board is able to hire someone to serve in an interim capacity.
One task requiring immediate attention is the closing out of a grant, he noted.