ENM Police are back on duty

Patrick Fisher, Staff Writer

A crowd of more than 130 people cheered as the Elko New Market City Council unanimously reinstated the city's police department effective Friday, April 24.

The council's decision on Thursday, April 23, was made at Eagle View Elementary School. City staff moved the meeting to the school since it would have more room then city hall.

The decision came with three conditions:

• An independent consultant will do a feasibility study on the financial implications of continuing to staff a police department as opposed to contracting with Scott County.

• Two closed meetings were scheduled for performance evaluations for Chief Rick Jensen and Sgt. Steve Malecka.

• The council placed Malecka on administrative leave until further review.

The first two conditions were unanimous, the other came on a 3-2 vote with council members Bob Hanna, Jim Friedges, and Denise Schneider in favor and Mayor Jason Ponsonby and Council member Dennis Melgaard opposed.

The reinstatement of the department reverses the council's earlier 3-2 vote on Thursday, April 9, which removed the city's two full-time and six part-time officers from patrol and put them on administrative duty until May 13 when the department would have been disbanded.

That action brought the crowd to the April 23 council meeting. Close to 100 people took part in a rally before the meeting in support of the police department. (See story, Page 17.)

Approximately 19 people spoke during the meeting's public comment period. While a few supported the council's earlier action, questioning the need for a police department in Elko New Market and the costs of a future police building, most thought the earlier decision was irresponsible. Several also called for the resignation of council members Friedges, Hanna and Schneider, the three who approved the abolishment of the department.

Attorney Bob Bauer of Apple Valley was among those who spoke. He noted a concerned resident had hired him. He stated the city's April 9 decision was void since it was in violation of a city ordinance. He explained the department had been established by an ordinance, and that ordinance had not been repealed.

His speech and others asking the council to reverse its decision drew applause from most of the audience. Carolyn Miller, a former council member, also presented a petition with 300 signatures in support of the police.

The council had spent about two months discussing possibly discontinuing its police department and contracting with the Scott County Sheriff's Office as a cost saving measure. Information at an April 9 workshop indicated that contracting with the sheriff's office would cost slightly more than operating a local police department.

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