Top Stories of 2013, Part II
Continuing our list of the top stories of 2013, in no particular order:
Unified Dispatch (May)
Stevens Point police/emergency dispatchers became one with the county- level dispatch department after several months of negotiations promised to yield a streamlined and better- funded single dispatch department serving all of Portage County. Though a misnomer, the term “joint dispatch” was used by city and county leaders to describe the project, which moves all dispatchers under the purview of the Portage Co. Sheriff. The end result, the Communications Center at the Sheriff’s Office, employs twice as many dispatchers as it previously did and also increases the number of dispatchers on duty at any one time. The Comm. Center also recently upgraded its 911 systems and mobile radio equipment for officers and deputies to a new Simulcast system at the end of the year.
Pay Structure Process- Not Raises- Suspect (Oct.- Nov.)
City Council Members were asked to consider a process used to determine how city employee salaries compared with those from other municipalities in an effort to keep Stevens Point competitive. Approving the process was delayed by two months, thanks to poor leadership from the chairman of the city’s personnel committee and the highly- technical process which was difficult to grasp by laypersons as well as Council accusations that the mayor’s office wasn’t forthcoming with all the information. It was later confirmed the mayor’s office did not disclose information relating to the equalized value rankings of comparable municipalities being used in the study, something Mayor Halverson said wasn’t relevant because it were merely a “draft” of information. Keeping that information from the Council indirectly lowered the study’s findings showing Stevens Point salaries some $2,000 below where they should be in comparison with other cities. The pay study eventually returned the results city leaders say they already suspected: many department heads and some city worker positions were underpaid- some by as much as $20k/year, but many union employees were also being overpaid, by as much as $6k/year. Raises were issues and pay freezes were put into place, and while no jobs were lose and no pay reductions enacted, many City Council Members all agreed some positions deserved a pay raise but remained suspicious of the process used to arrive at the results.
Entertainment Weekly Drools Over Patrick Rothfuss (June)
UWSP ’99 graduate Patrick Rothfuss made national headlines this summer when a book reviewer at Entertainment Weekly pronounced his love for Rothfuss’ first two books and recommended them to his readers. Blogger Grady Smith called Rothfuss’ first two books “a great fantasy series”, also wondering, “How the heck had I not heard of these books sooner?” Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle is currently comprised of two books, “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear” (the third of the series has yet to be published.) The books tell the story of Kvothe, a street magician trying to understand a tragedy that befell his family. Rothfuss, 40, is active in environmental causes including the Stevens Point Farmshed but now lives in his native Madison.
Nuisance Ordinance Fails Miserably (November)
In what would have been his first piece of legislation drafted for the city ordinance books, City Attorney Logan Beveridge modeled a Stevens Point nuisance ordinance after one in Milwaukee. Beveridge said he saw the need for such an ordinance after news of an ongoing illegal fight club at a downtown bar came to his attention. The city needed a tool to hold oblivious- or lazy- business owners accountable for that kind of repeated, illegal activity in the downtown area, he said, and this was it. The ordinance operated on a platform of “three strikes”, giving residential and commercial property owners three chances to curb illegal activity on their properties. After three citable offenses city leaders would then be able to classify the property as a “nuisance” and demand the property owner outline an abatement plan or face fines or other legal action. While no downtown business owners addressed the topic at any city meetings, area landlords rushed to defend themselves, saying the ordinance unfairly put their properties under a microscope because tenants weren’t always easy to control, also blaming the state’s lengthy and burdensome eviction process. The overwhelming objection to the ordinance, coupled with a lack of any major support for it, ultimately swayed the Council to turn it down.