The Perry City Council met in regular session Monday, and replacing a resigning Perry Police officer and offering the soon-to-reopen Pattee Hotel financial support from city coffers were among the chief topics of discussion.
The Perry Police Department got council go ahead to seek to fill a full-time position falling open due to the resignation of Officer Rod Pavelka, a 10-year veteran of the Perry force. Pavelka has accepted a position with the Guthrie Center Police Department, and his last day on the Perry payroll will be Nov. 1.
The council directed Perry Police Chief Dan Brickner to advertise the open position. Pavelka’s replacement will keep at 12 the number of full-time officers in the Perry department, although Perry Mayor Jay Pattee noted the department is sometimes stretched thin.
"This has been a difficult year for our police officers," Pattee said. "They’ve had a hard time just covering their human-resource needs."
The optimal number of full-time peace officers was a topic of much council discussion last year and remains a matter of interest.
The council thanked Pavelka, who was not present at the meeting, for his service to the city. He and other city employees will be honored Oct. 30 at a Staff Training and Recognition Day.
Discussing police recruitment led the council to the related question of residency-proximity requirements for city employees. According to the city code, all essential city workers—defined, basically, as firefighters and police officers—are required to live within five miles of the city limits of Perry. Other city and public school employees are encouraged but not strictly required to live within the boundaries of the Perry Community School District. Earlier this year, the council approved a resolution allowing a maximum of three Perry Police officers to live outside the city limits if they were hired before December, 2014.
Prior to his resignation, Pavelka had requested an exemption from this requirement and while the question is now moot in the policeman’s case, the general policy remains to be clarified.
According to Councilmember Charles Schott, "Everyone should live within the district." Living where you work promotes community cohesion, he said, because "if the employees have kids in the schools and are shopping at the local stores, then they’re part of the community."
Councilmember Dr. Randy McCaulley said his fellow councilmember stated "a very worthy goal," but he was not prepared to revise the policy immediately.
City Clerk Corey Eastman noted the city has not issued an employee handbook for more than three years because of uncertainties about the proximity requirements and how they apply to different categories of employees. The council resolved to give the question further study and return to it at the Nov. 4 meeting.
Turning to financial matters, the council scheduled three public hearings intended to solicit public opinion on various features of the city’s urban renewal plans as well as on an economic development agreement to extend the Pattee Hotel $350,000 in city support over five years.
Perry gave almost $750,000 to the hotel’s previous owners over a similar time span.
Advocates of the public stipend for a private business argue the hotel is crucial to Perry’s overall economic development and worth supporting until it begins to turn a profit. The business model of Jay Hartz, the Pattee Hotel’s new owner, projects black ink for the hotel in three to five years.
A second public hearing will consider the issuance of urban renewal tax increment revenue bonds and a third will discuss amending the urban renewal plan. The council also approved a $2,000 expenditure for travel expenses for the Greater Dallas County Development Alliance, a trade and investment group. Linda Wunsch, executive director of the alliance, will represent DeSoto and Van Meter interests as well as Perry’s brownfield sites at the annual meeting of the Site Selectors Guild in Denver, Colo., in February.
The Greater Dallas County Development Alliance has also been working with Deane Foote, an Arizona development consultant and site selector, in an effort to attract business investment in Dallas County.
Pattee called the council-approved travel expenses "an inexpensive way to draw attention to Perry and make us a strong contender in the highly competitive market among cities for new business and to increase the commercial property tax base."
In other financial items, the council approved a $3,000 urban renewal loan application from the Pattee Hotel that will be used to repair restaurant booths and lobby furniture. The revolving-fund monies are to be repaid over three years at an annual interest rate of 3 percent. A similar application for a $5,000, five-year urban renewal loan from the Mandarin Cafe was also approved. The Chinese restaurant will use the money to replace a cooking stove. After these loans, the $200,000 revolving fund will have about $10,000 remaining.
Finally, the council approved a previous resolution to issue $2 million in general obligation corporate purpose bonds
During the meeting’s open forum, Minburn Communications gave a brief presentation on the progress of its high-speed telecommunications plan for Perry. Debra Lucht, the independent telecom’s general manager, Keetah Dodson, the company’s marketing director, and Larry Decamp, its advertising director, discussed the city’s recently signed two-year contract with the company.
City Administrator Butch Niebuhr noted the city will come out ahead on the cost of its telecommunications services thanks to the discount Minburn Communications has given it in return for a long-term contract.
Lucht said the construction portion of the project is expected to be completed by mid-November, with service beginning around Decc. 1. She said Perry is very nearly ringed with a redundant circuit that makes interruptions to service almost impossible. The only remaining gap in the loop is a stretch of County Road P58 between Highway 141 and K Trail.
The Perry City Council will meet again on Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. in the Clarion Room of City Hall.