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City still deciding on public safety director position

The city of Albert Lea is still weighing the future of the public safety director position after former Director Dwaine Winkels retired March 30.

City Manager Chad Adams said Monday during the Albert Lea City Council meeting that for the last two weeks he has reviewed possibly filling the position or having different leaders for police and fire departments.

“I’ll have a lot of great conversations with staff and a number of others,” he said. “I’m not quite ready to make that recommendation moving forward, but by the next meeting, I’m looking for some council action of support moving forward.”

First Ward Councilor Rich Murray said Tuesday he is looking for feedback from Adams and other city staff on the future of the position but believes the public safety director position has been a benefit.

“In watching us use this system over the last few years, I think it’s worked very well,” Murray said.

He said he is interested in keeping the position, adding Winkels improved both fire and police departments.

“I think both of them are operating very well right now, and I think his leadership helped us get there,” Murray said.

Winkels, who led the Police Department, was appointed as public safety director in July 2012. The departments did not merge with his appointment.

Adams said there are positives to both approaches, adding the council will consider variables when deciding how to proceed. He spoke highly of the job Winkels did as public safety director, adding the city has quality staff members who will continue to work under either format.

Under either approach, the city will open up the search to outside applicants.

In other action, the council:

• Approved a preliminary and final plat for Sky Pilot Park at the intersection of Pilot Road and Hi Tec Avenue. Development is expected to include 11 units of commercial space in two buildings for light manufacturing, warehousing and storage and retailing and consumer services. The units are expected to be for sale with surrounding land and parking area in common ownership.

• Amended the fee schedule to add fees for municipal docks. As part of the city’s new marina pilot project, staff recommended a $1,250 fee per boat slip, “which is based on equipment costs in comparison to an individual paying a dock space fee and other costs associated with the purchase, installation, maintenance and storage of a dock,” Adams said in a report.

• Supported local decision-making and opposed legislation that the city said removes the ability of local elected officials to respond to the needs of businesses and constituents.

“More than two dozen bills that restrict local decision-making have been introduced in the 2017-18 biennium and over 110 cities have already approved the resolution supporting local decision-making,” Adams said. 

• Proclaimed April Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.

• Proclaimed this week as National Library Week.

• Witnessed the swearing-in of Albert Lea Fire Department paid on-call firefighters.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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