Archive for Thursday, May 18, 2006

Citizens sound concerns

May 18, 2006

There wasn't much meat to Monday's meeting agenda for the Baldwin City Council. But, a pair of residents raised concerns that brought issues to the forefront.

Marve Wilson, who lives north and a little west of the Baldwin City Municipal Pool, was concerned about proposed new parking that would take away green space in front of her home. Brian Kelly, a school resource officer in Lawrence who lives here, raised concerns about the training of new officers in the Baldwin City Police Department.

"There have been two events that have triggered my concerns," said Kelly. "I've got training issues with police officers that are hired. As a police officer myself, we respond to a lot of medical calls. They don't have CPR training and that's a major concern.

"The other is firearms training," he said. "They've been given a gun, but no training. I have a friend who was bullied into quitting (the Baldwin police force). That was the triggering event. As a citizen, I want to feel safe."

Mayor Gary Walbridge asked Police Chief Mike McKenna if he wanted to respond.

"No, not really," said McKenna. "I know Brian. Some of the things are personnel issues and I shouldn't discuss this."

Council members agreed.

"I don't think a lot of people know what's going on," said Kelly. "They assume and I assume that they know CPR. The recent murder brought it out that things like that can happen here. Medical personnel weren't able to respond right away, but that probably wouldn't have mattered.

"Public safety officers aren't just here to respond to crime," he said. "We could talk all day about getting something done, but it really needs to be done."

"Something will be done," said Walbridge.

Tuesday morning, McKenna addressed Kelly's concerns, noting that he has spoken many times to him and was surprised that he appeared at Monday's meeting. He again declined to discuss the personnel issue Kelly raised about the officer who left. However, he made it clear that new officers do receive proper training even before they go to the Law Enforcement Training Center. The law requires that officers graduate from the academy within a year of being hired. But, new officers don't just hit the streets of Baldwin immediately.

"When we hire an officer, they ride with another officer before they go out on their own," said McKenna. "We do have a training program they go through prior to going to the academy. We do have procedures that are followed.

"They ride several weeks with another officer," he said. "We have an outline of procedures they go through. We test them on the procedures before they go out on their own. They also have firearms training. We have a good program and we'll continue to use it."

City Administrator Jeff Dingman also expressed his confidence in the police department's training procedures Tuesday.

"On the police department matters, I am indeed confident with the chief's ability to evaluate officers and put them on the street," said Dingman. "He and I have talked about the types of things he uses to evaluate officer readiness. We have talked very recently about putting together an outline of the training topics that are covered with officers as they are hired and even after they return from the academy at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.

"I believe, and I think Mike agrees, that having this sort of document to share with the city council, the public, the media, etc. would be beneficial, as was highlighted last evening," he said. "There does appear to be some misconceptions floating around, and having a policy document that outlines an objective set of training topics and evaluation criteria will further bolster the professionalism and credibility we are trying to achieve for the police department."

Wilson's concerns about more parking around the pool were prompted when Council Member Tony Brown relayed to council members discussions that have taken place in the community development committee meetings. At the last council meeting, a member of Boy Scout Troop 65 presented a proposal to create additional parking places between the Scout cabin and the creek just to the east of it near the pool.

"The parking issue is something we will look at soon, possibly even with some gravel," said Brown.

That's when Wilson spoke up.

"We're very concerned about the area," said Wilson. "We're concerned about the green space area will be parking. We're concerned about concrete in front of our house. I would like to when something is planned. I know that something needs to be done."

Council Member Nancy Brown indicated she'd heard from other Boy Scout leaders and wanted to make it clear that the proposal wasn't from the troop and that the Scouts have a lease with the city on the property for at least the next six years.

"I was asked to say David Simmons (the Scout leader who spoke previously) did not speak for the Scout troop on this issue," N. Brown said.

T. Brown indicated several options would be considered.

"One thing we talked about in not paving anymore green space than we have to," said T. Brown. "We're still looking for solutions. In the summer time, it's a mess there."

In the only action items of the meeting, the council approved unanimously an ordinance amendment to the city code to adjust charges for installing electrical service, an ordinance annexing the Capelle property (golf course) into the city and re-appointing David Moore to the Baldwin City Recreation Commission. The city agreed to purchase the golf course for around $550,000 for recreational purposes other than golf.

"By the time it (ordinance) is published, the payment will be made," Dingman said of the purchase.

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