By Brandi Makuski
City leaders on Monday gave initial approval to hiring an additional drug officer for the Stevens Point Police Department.
The additional position is contingent on receiving a federal grant, but Police Chief Martin Skibba said he wouldn’t ask for it unless the position was needed.
“This city is growing and has grown for some time,” Skibba told the Personnel Committee on Monday. “The more we are understaffed, the more law enforcement we do and the less care-taking we do.”
Skibba said the department had two drug officers at one point in the past, but one of those drug officer positions was eliminated from the city budget about 15 years ago.
“We’re currently utilizing one of our general investigators to assist with it,” he said, pointing out the city has had one homicide in the past year, along with one shooting, and are encountering more violent and drug-related crimes every year.
The city will learn if its won the grant by mid-October. But even with the grant, the city will be responsible for $15,000 of the new officer’s $83,000 salary for each other next three years. The city can use that time, Mayor Mike Wiza said, to grow revenues to the point where it can foot the entire salary itself.
But without the grant, the city isn’t in a financial spot to fund the new position now.
“If the grant is not received and it is this council’s wish to go forward and explore options for hiring that drug officer anyway,” Wiza said, “it’s going to be a lot more difficult for me to provide a favorable recommendation, knowing the budget constraints that we have.”
The move now requires approval by the full City Council on Sept. 18. The 7 PM meeting will be held at 1516 Church St. and it open to the public.