Search for Spencer Police Chief nearing a conclusion

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

By Elliott Fifer

Daily Reporter Staff

Spencer Mayor Reynold Peterson announced Monday that he is within "10 to 14 days" of hiring a new police chief, a search that has been ongoing since former Spencer police chief, Michael Lashbrook, announced Dec. 20 that he would vacate his position.

Peterson, who will ultimately be in charge of making the offer to one of the candidates, said he has narrowed his search to six finalists; three from Spencer and one each from Sergeant Bluff, Tipton and Waverly.

"This will be the hardest decision I will have to make during my tenure as mayor," Peterson told the city council during a meeting at city hall Monday evening.

Peterson said the six finalists -- Sergeant Bluff chief of police David McFarland; Tipton chief of police Roger Hakeman; detective Jason S. Leonard of the Waverly police department; and Lt. Mark S. Lawson , Lt. Harold E. Harson and patrol officer Mike Wilson of the Spencer police department -- all participated in both oral and written interviews this past Saturday in the council chambers of city hall.

The interviews were conducted by three current Iowa police chiefs; Jeff Cayler of Carroll, Eric Milburn of Estherville and William Skare of Boone. The results of the interviews are now in the hands of Mayor Peterson in order to help him make a decision.

Along with the interview results, Peterson said he plans to do some background checks of his own in the coming weeks.

"I myself will be gathering some more information on the candidates before I make my decision," he said.

Among other topics discussed by the council were a local hazard mitigation plan, the re-opening of the bridge on Grand Avenue and the acceptance of a grant for a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.

The Spencer mitigation plan, presented to the council by Ted Kourousis of Northwest Iowa Planning and Development, provides "a comprehensive risk assessment, problem assessment, mitigation goals and implementation schedule for the community."

The plan was launched due to a $6,000 grant that was awarded to the City of Spencer for the purpose of preparing a mitigation plan in accordance with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Iowa Homeland Security Guidelines.

According to the Northwest Iowa Planning and Development Commission, the plan's overall goal is to reduce the human and economic costs in case of both natural and man-made disasters that may occur in Spencer.

"In the event of a disaster," Kourousis said, "Spencer would be eligible for Federal funding."

Following Kourousis' presentation, the council voted unanimously in favor of adopting the "City of Spencer Iowa Hazard Mitigation Plan."

The approved plan will now be sent to Kansas City for a final review by FEMA.

Another topic of concern to the council Monday was the issue of the re-opening of the bridge on Grand Avenue.

Mark White, director of public works in Spencer, said in his communication with those in charge of the construction on the bridge that they are hoping to have it re-opened sometime around the end of July.

When questioned by council member Steve Bomgaars on whether or not that was a realistic timeframe, White said as far as he is aware, the workers are on schedule.

"I hope so, does that count?" White said with a laugh.

City staff were also authorized Monday by the council to proceed with preparation to apply for a grant that would fund a SRTS program in Spencer. The application, which would be due October 1 of this year, would aim to improve air quality by encouraging children to walk or bike to school.

"The first grant would be just to get some expertise to help us put together a plan," said Donna Fisher, Spencer city clerk.

Ron Hanson, representative of Ward 5, emphasized his support for the project.

"It sounds like a great idea. I think we should pursue it and see what it entails," he said.

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