Sgt. Werts’ last day is April 7; HPD searches for additional officers
Sgt. Mark Werts, who has been with Holyoke Police Department since 2015, has given his resignation. Reporting to Holyoke City Council at its March 17 meeting, Chief Doug Bergstrom said that Werts’ last day will be April 7 and that he is moving on to Cheyenne County.
In the span of seven months, HPD will have gone from five officers to two. Bergstrom has been seeking a new hire since December, and even with a $6,500 increase to the starting salary for the position, he’s had little luck.
There have been two uncertified applicants, but one has since withdrawn his application. The other could be a homegrown prospect, meaning the department would sponsor his academy training in exchange for a commitment to work at HPD for a certain period of time.
“We have one applicant and two spots to fill,” said council member Steve Moore, who serves on the police committee.
“There are jobs throughout Colorado, and the chiefs that I’ve talked to are having the same problem,” Bergstrom added.
Most of the people enrolled in police academies are already sponsored by another department. Bergstrom did find a couple who are not yet sponsored, and he intends to try to recruit from there.
In the meantime, council members approved a psychology evaluation and background check for the homegrown prospect to see if he can enroll in a police academy.
To handle the workload in the interim, Bergstrom has been in contact with Phillips County Sheriff’s Office and Haxtun Police Department about contracted work. He informed council members that both agencies are willing. When contracted, PCSO will use its own cars and uniforms, and the City will pay for fuel. The office will not, however, handle municipal ordinances. Haxtun Police Department, when contracted, will use a Holyoke vehicle and uniform and will perform normal duties. Council members approved moving forward with that plan of action.
City adopts coronavirus response plan
On March 17, the City adopted its coronavirus (COVID-19)
response plan, based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It includes strategies for employers to use now, critical and essential operations, communications plan, quarantine plan or four tiers of response. The council approved closing the City office to the public until further notice. Residents can use the dropbox at the office to submit payments and should call if they have any questions.
Council members were also presented with Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay rules. Adopted March 11, 7 CCR 1103-10 temporarily requires employers in certain industries to provide up to four days of paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms who are being tested for COVID-19. If the employee receives a negative test result, the paid leave ends.
The included industries are leisure and hospitality; food services; child care; education, including transportation, food service and related work with educational establishments; home health, if working with elderly, disabled, ill or otherwise high-risk individuals; nursing homes; and community living facilities.
The rules will be in effect for 30 days, or longer if the state of emergency declared by Gov. Jared Polis continues.
Toilet paper shortage may lead to sewer problems
Given the shortage of toilet paper during the COVID-19 pandemic, City superintendent Mark Brown reiterated that residents need to be aware of what can and cannot be flushed down toilets or poured down sink drains. In particular, wipes should not be flushed — even if the package says “flushable.”
Things that cannot be flushed or poured down sink drains include:
— Cloth rags or towels.
— Baby wipes, toilet wipes, towelettes, disinfecting wipes or cloth wipes of any kind.
— Paper (other than toilet paper or tissue).
— Feminine hygiene products of any kind.
— Beauty products, Q-tips or dental floss.
— Plastics of any kind.
— Grease of any kind, especially cooking grease.
— Pesticides or fertilizers.
— Paint, varnish or paint remover.
— Motor oil, gasoline or any explosive materials.
These materials lead to clogged pumps and sewer backups in people’s homes. They are expensive to clean and repair, and the cost is the homeowner’s responsibility.
The only things that should be flushed are water, human waste, and toilet paper or tissue.
Also at last Tuesday’s meeting, Holyoke City Council opened bids to haul rock for the upcoming sealcoat project. Two bids were submitted.
The bid accepted by city council members was $10 per yard by Nick Ferguson. The other bid was $15.50 per ton by Frenchman Valley Co-op.
Brown reported that the City’s new pickup trucks arrived. As of Tuesday’s meeting, one of the three had been put into service. The water and sewer department made a repair to the alfalfa sprinkler system, and it is back up and running. The new handheld meter reading system arrived, and the department is also working on water and wastewater quarterly testing for the State. When weather allowed, street crews got in a few days of crack filling and had the street sweeper out as well.
Bergstrom reported that HPD, including code enforcement, handled or generated 340 calls for service Feb. 28-March 12. There were seven animal complaints and two municipal code violations. Bergstrom also informed council members that, in light of COVID-19, officers are taking additional precautions when responding to medical calls. Dispatch is screening for anyone with symptoms. Officers have masks and gloves, but they aren’t entering homes of people with symptoms. They stay outside and wait for medical personnel.
City clerk/treasurer Kathy Olofson reported that Scott Szabo had been in the office conducting the in-house section of the audit.
Attorney Al Wall reported that there’s been a lot of information circulating about what to do about city council meetings in regard to COVID-19. He reminded council members that Holyoke’s charter only requires one meeting per month. The City intends to hold its April 7 meeting as usual but will address alternatives should it become necessary.
In other business at the March 17 meeting, city council members:
— Allowed Mayor Orville Tonsing to sign the April Sexual Assault Awareness Month proclamation.
— Approved a travel request for Jason Redman to attend the 2020 spring mosquito workshop in Brighton.
— Donated one youth summer swim pass to Dragon’s Wagon Preschool for its fundraiser.
— Agreed to sponsor Emily Krogmeier and Tara Krueger at $335 each to become certified American Red Cross instructors for lifeguard training.
— Tabled discussion of the City’s pledge to the Holyoke Community Childcare Initiative.