City proposes $3.6 million capital budget

The Princeton Police Department has been given the go ahead to look into possible funding assistance for the potential startup of a police dog unit.

The city council gave the OK during last Thursday’s monthly study session, whose main agenda was to review a proposed capital improvement program (CIP) budget for next year of more than $3.6 million.

The proposed CIP is a compilation of funding requests from each city department or area for capital items, including equipment, computer software, buildings and infrastructure such as roads and utilities.

The council did not act on the actual request to have a police dog unit, only approving Police Chief Brian Payne’s request for authorization to look into funding sources to keep such a unit going if approved. Princeton Police officer Jason Cederberg, who would be the K-9 unit officer, assisted Payne in making the funding-review request.

The K-9 unit startup cost in the proposed CIP budget for 2013 is $58,500. Most of that would be for a squad car with equipment made for a police dog unit.

The first request that the council received for having a Princeton police dog again was on Aug. 2 this year. Assisting in that request was police dog trainer Steve Pearson. The council, at the time, said it was not prepared to OK allowing the department to look for K-9 operational funding sources. The council’s reasoning at that time, was that such authorization could be construed as leaning too much toward possible approval of having the unit.

The police department had a K-9 unit for five years, ending it about a decade ago. A council member last Thursday asked Payne what he knew of the reasons for the department disbanding the K-9 unit back then. “I was not privy to that,” Payne said. “But there are always hidden costs and it can hit hard if you don’t plan for it.” Payne went on, that officer Cederberg is the kind of employee who would be doing a lot of the unit’s maintenance on his own time.

City Administrator Mark Karnowski cautioned the council that the training has to be kept up on a police dog or liability issues could come up if the dog doesn’t perform as intended.

“My concern, essentially, is that we would be losing an officer for the training of a dog,” said council member Thom Walker, who voiced other worries. Would the city have to hire a 12th officer for patrol to keep coverage the same since Cederberg’s duty would be with the K-9 unit, Walker asked.

Payne answered that there would be eight weeks of initial training of the police dog and training of the handler (Cederberg) and there would be more training for the specialty skill of detecting drugs.

Council member Victoria Hallin asked if the city was to start up a K-9 unit again, would it end up dissolving it after some years like the last one, and then the city would not have fully used its investment.

The city would have the option to get out of the unit when the service life of the police dog has ended and “that isn’t a long time,” Walker responded.

Payne said he hoped that funding sources other than the city could cover a K-9 unit’s ongoing expenses once the unit is established. One possible revenue source Payne suggested, was money from property forfeited through drug convictions.

Council member Dick Dobson suggested looking into a discounted K-9 patrol vehicle, such as one with hail damage.

If such a vehicle was serviceable, “I’ve no problem with that,” Payne answered.

Hallin asked how many calls there might be in a year for K-9 assistance.

Officer Cederberg responded that a police dog could be used for many things every day and that it wouldn’t have to be just for calls. A K-9 unit is a good deterrent for crime, Cederberg added.

After the council had discussed all of the police department CIP requests for 2013, Dobson made a motion to authorize the police department to look into funding sources for a K-9 unit. Council member Paul Whitcomb seconded the motion and the council passed it unanimously.

The other police CIP requests beyond the $58,500 to start a police K-9 unit were:

• $44,000 for a new squad car (separate from any K-9 car)

• $40,000 for state-required 800 MHz radio system

• $47,000 for scheduled replacement of portable radios with the 800 MHz type radios

• $15,000 for copier

• $3,000 for firing range equipment

• $9,300 for taser gun replacement

• $2,300 for officer mounted camera

• $600 for remote trail camera

• $3,750 for cellular communication upgrade

• $900 for computer upgrade for reserve squad car.

On the issue of cellular communication, Payne noted that officers are using their personal cell phones for police work and that he is requesting the city purchase a cell phone for each squad car.

On the subject of 800 MHz portable radios, Payne said that his officers have been having problems with radio connection when using these radios inside schools and some larger buildings. Payne said he is looking at possible remedies, including installing a communications repeater in each squad car.

The sheriff had suggested asking businesses to install special antennas on their buildings to help, “but I don’t know if I am comfortable with that,” Payne said, in reference to the cost those business people would incur. Payne didn’t say which county sheriff had made the above suggestion, but Mille Lacs County Sheriff Brent Lindgren has been working with Payne on setting up police departments in the county with the 800 MHz radio system.

On the subject of trail cameras, Payne said that department investigator Todd Frederick and Cederberg recommended those, with the idea that it might catch a criminal in the act of crimes.

Airport discussion lively

One of the livelier discussions during the CIP budget deliberation was on a crosswind runway proposal that has been pushed by the city’s airport advisory board. Although there is no dollar number listed for 2013 for a crosswind runway, totals are proposed in the CIP budget for years 2014, ‘15, and ‘16.

Specifically, preliminary planning for a crosswind runway is proposed at a cost of $130,000 in 2014, while $950,000 is proposed in 2015, for crosswind runway land and easement acquisitions, and there is a third crosswind runway related expense of $1,700,000 proposed for 2016.

While the city council has gone on record this year as saying it prefers spending tax money on extending the existing runway, rather than on building a crosswind runway, the request for money to build a crosswind runway keeps showing up in the CIP budget, the council noted.

City Administrator Mark Karnowski and council members noted that the chance of getting federal assistance to build a crosswind runway looks to be nil, and that extending the runway could help bring in potential industrial park clients. The airport board’s request for a crosswind runway was presented by former Princeton Mayor Richard Anderson, as a benefit for people who want to fly light aircraft because of health conditions restricting them from flying more common aircraft. Anderson explained that light aircraft have less stability when they are perpendicular to a crosswind.

“I’m  baffled,” council member Walker said at Thursday’s study session, about the crosswind runway request still showing up. Walker said he couldn’t understand why anyone is still pushing for a crosswind runway after all the facts were presented earlier this year, showing it not feasible for the city. Meanwhile, there is no request on the CIP sheet to extend the runway, Walker said, explaining that he doesn’t understand that.

City Administrator Karnowski speculated that the reason for that may be because the airport board doesn’t sense that lengthening the runway is at risk for being dropped, while the crosswind runway request is in jeopardy.

A runway extension does seem more feasible, responded council member Hallin, adding that it could help with bringing in industrial clients who use corporate jets.

The one airport CIP request that was listed for 2013 was for $400,000. That would go to make an asphalt surface where there is grass in front of hangars, to reduce the amount of sod torn up during snow removal. Some of that money would also possibly go for developing additional hangar lots.


Big request for safety building

One of the bigger requests on the CIP list for 2013, was $2 million for a safety building that would house the fire and police departments. The council has stated that it plans to fund it with money from the city’s off-sale liquor fund. Other requests under the department of administration were $62,500 for a new roof on city hall and $75,000 to remodel the civic center.

Treasurer Jackson noted the council’s decision earlier this year to decrease its levy for the CIP budget by $100,000 in each of the years 2013-15, leaving the levy for each year at $75,600. The reasoning was to keep the tax levy down.

The funding sources for the proposed $3,653,850 in requests for 2013, would be $489,350 in capital reserve, $600,000 in special assessments, $368,500 in federal/state aid, $2 million as “other debt” and $196,000 titled as “other.”

The CIP balance summary shows that the beginning balance in the account is $2,457,500 and that the 2013 levy would provide $75,600, and interest income would total $19,700, for a total CIP balance of $2,063,450.

Note that the CIP amounts projected into the future are subject to change as the council reassesses needs and requests each year.