Oak Creek After three months of discussion and 4 1/2 hours into Thursday night's Town Board meeting, it seemed the fate of Oak Creek's Police Department would never be decided. Ten minutes later, the board voted to have two police officers and one police chief. An audible sigh rose from the audience and one man applauded.
At hiring time, the board voted, the new officers would receive better pay than their predecessors.
After the second smoke break and a promise of a third pot of coffee, only the most dedicated and those whose issues were farther down on the agenda returned for the last part of the meeting.
Since the last Town Board meeting, the police department had gone through a major shakeup with the loss of the interim chief and the termination of Sgt. Dave Miller. Only one full-time officer, Kelby Kenney, and Reserve Officer Eileen Rossi were left on the force.
Before the meeting ended, the Town Board gave both officers raises. Kenney's salary went from $26,000 to $31,000 and Rossi, who agreed at the meeting to step in as interim chief, will now be paid $25/ per hour, instead of her usual $14/hour, while the town of Oak Creek advertises for a police chief.
"I named that figure with my eyes open," Rossi said. "You are asking me to walk into a nightmare."
Both Kenney and Rossi were suspect of the board's decision to limit the police department to two officers. Kenney was at the meeting after working a 24-hour shift with no sleep.
Board Trustee Mike Kien commented he felt much of that was because of Kenney pushing himself too hard.
When Rossi questioned the smaller figure, saying Oak Creek must have at least three officers, Mayor Cargo Rodeman said, "This decision needs to be made on the actuality of crime in this town, not just on focusing on the few major crimes that have happened in the last 30 years."
Since Oak Creek has been operating with only one officer, assisted by Rossi, the town faced one major incident Wednesday night when a shot was fired on Main Street after a bar fight.
Four officers responded to the call. Rodeman said Kenney was on the scene within two minutes of the call. Rossi, who was woken from a sound sleep, was there within 10 minutes, and two officers from the Sheriff's Department arrived from Hayden within 20 minutes, even after hitting a deer along the way, she said.
The board made its decision after Rodeman watched a tape of the incident and after going on a 48 hour ride-along with an on-duty officer.
She still felt the department could be limited. She also felt former Interim Chief Jason Lunnen should be kept on the force.
Lunnen is still certified to be a police officer in Oak Creek until July 30, after the third and final failure of the certification exam. Much of the discussion of the meeting centered around the town's desire to keep Lunnen on the police force. Board members suggested everything from hiring him on as a night security guard to a grant writer.
It was decided Lunnen would be welcome back on the police force if he was to ever become certified and a position were to be open.