The St. Cloud Police Department will be moving into its new headquarters in November, a $36 million facility paid for through a 2006 public safety bond referendum. During the referendum campaign, the city promised to hire 12 new officers over four years if the referendum passed.
That might be an issue. While the St. Cloud Mayor promised that “we will make sure our scarce resources go toward our highest priority,” according to the St. Cloud Times, staffing the new facility might be harder than the city expected when the referendum passed in 2006. The city has hired half the police officers it promised, and applied for federal stimulus money to pay for the rest. The problem, Police Chief Dennis Ballantine points out, is that police departments across the country have applied for $8.3 billion when only $1 billion of stimulus money is available.
Another issue is that stimulus money does not cover support staff. This is a problem for St. Cloud because it currently does not have enough people to type in reports, handle requests for information, and do other tasks. According to the St. Cloud Times,
The building is designed with a “nerve center” that is intended to be staffed at all times, [Police Chief Charlie] Ballantine said. The person working in the nerve center is supposed to monitor the building, the suspect interview rooms and downtown cameras; and provide after-hours access in and out of the building.
“It’s the central point,” Ballantine said.
There isn’t money right now to staff that area, and Ballantine said he’s working with other city officials to figure out a way to pay for the three community service officers needed.
Without the necessary support staff, the St. Cloud Police Department will have to reconsider whether it will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The St. Cloud Times reports that the department has requested $13.8 in funding from the city for 2010, part of which would go toward hiring a custodian and three community services officers. The police department still has 6 of the 12 promised police officers to hire for the new building, as well. Any new hires, however, would come at a time when the city is on a hiring freeze.
The St. Cloud Police Department must juggle referendum hiring promises, the hiring freeze, and its application for federal funds, with the cuts Governor Pawlenty and his friends in the Legislature implemented across the state. The police department must reevaluate what it will do before it even moves into the new $36 million facility. This is one of the many stories across Minnesota of how the reckless budget cuts by Governor Pawlenty and his allies have affected not only the city, but also the voters who will have to deal with an understaffed police department where it might take longer to get a police report or have someone respond to your call. We’re talking to folks around the state all this week to see how local Minnesotan residents are affected by budget cuts. Share your story with us, or follow our journey on Twitter or Facebook.