By Ralph Echtinaw
In an environment where hiring experience police officers is problematic at best, St. Louis police will grow their own.
The city will pay $8,353 to put Lafayette Township resident Jakin Charles Clark, 22, through the Delta College police academy beginning next week following city council approval Tuesday.
The last few years have been difficult for police forces around the state to find qualified applicants for open jobs, and St. Louis is no exception. Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. told city council he has tried to fill an opening for one and a half years without success. “I’m not going to lower my standards to fill a spot,” he said. “I don’t want to bring in a headache or a problem child for the officers to have to work alongside.”
So language was put into the new police union contract this year giving the city the right to sponsor a police academy student.
Ramereiz said that Clark “lives just outside of town, bought a house (and) just got married a year ago. He has no wish or desire to leave the area. His family is here. His church is here. He has strong ties to both and doesn’t want to go anywhere else. He is very much willing to go through whatever he has to to become an officer. It’s a childhood dream of his.”
Clark will be paid $12.88 per hour during the 16 weeks of police academy training.“When you’re in the academy you have no time for anything else,” Ramereiz said. “Looking back to when I went thorough the academy (1997) I wasn’t married, I was living in an apartment (and) I had to move back home because going from a $20/hour job as a bricklayer to the police academy for minimum wage was a huge dent in the wallet.”
Clark will be contractually committed to working three years with St. Louis police after graduation. Ramereiz hopes to have him on the beat in January.
Salt barn update
The city expects a delivery of road salt this month for the coming winter but has no good place to store it, as the DPW’s salt barn was damaged late last year and council declined the administration’s request to replace it with a $275,000 salt dome last June. Council then told administrators to repair the existing salt barn or replace it with a similar structure.
“We have had no additional information regarding material costs for a new salt barn,” wrote Public Services Director Keith Ridon in his monthly report. “We are awaiting costs for two local contractors for removal of the upper, damaged structure. As we have a delivery of salt coming this month we hope to have the old structure removed so we can deposit the salt in the concrete portion of the structure and then place tarps over it. This solution will handle only portion of our salt needs. We continue to seek solutions while making plans to store our deliveries.”
Council approved payment of $28,402 to Tri Terra of Lansing for demolition of a house and shed at 110 West Jackson, which abuts the city’s industrial park. Tri Terra has hired subcontractors Best Excavating for the demotion work and Prime Contracting LLC for asbestos removal. Giles said work should begin in late fall.
Leonard apologizes to Hansen
Councilman Bill Leonard apologized to Downtown Development Authority Director Phil Hansen during council comments time for getting on his case at the Aug. 2 meeting. At that time, the two clashed when Leonard declined to tell Hansen he did a good job with the July 16 Independence Day celebration.
“Everyone already knows there has been issues with myself and Mr. Phil Hansen,” Leonard said Tuesday. “So I asked for a meeting which happened last week. It was a good meeting. (We) talked through several issues, and in the end I apologized, which I’m doing again in this public forum. As always (I look) forward to working with the city council, Hansen and staff. And this is probably a good time while I’m standing here to give shoutouts and kudos to the rest of the St. Louis not only administration but (police) chief and his department and everyone else who is part of the city.”
Leonard is particularly sympathetic to the women who interact over the counter with St. Louis residents every day. “I wouldn’t want to stand against the window and take the compliments from the great American public every day like the girls do,” he said.
Clerk Mari Ann Ryder chimed in with this: “Sometimes they’re nice.”
Leonard replied: “Sure they are. It’s the un-nice I was referring to.”
Leonard and Hansen then shook hands, and the hatchet is apparently buried.
In his monthly report to city council, Public Services Director Risdon told the frustrating story of a contractor who thrice failed to give the city the required three-day’s notice to get access to the water tower on Giddings Place.
Pro Comm of Mt. Pleasant was hired by Gratiot County Central Dispatch to install an antenna on the water tower last December. Water department personnel must unlock the water tower so Pro Comm can do its work.
“The contractor failed to provide city with timely notification of their intent to to install an antenna, causing some scrambling on the city’s part,” wrote Risdon. “Unfortunately, this failure to provide timely notification has continued, as the contractor calls for assistance once he gets here. Too often our two-man department is already involved in other work. This has been an ongoing problem causing staff and work disruptions.”
Risdon reported Tuesday that the issue has been resolved. Pro Comm provided the three-day notice Monday for access to the tower on Thursday.
Council appointed Ranae Wolfe, 54, to a seat on the city’s parks and recreation commission. Wolfe is recommended by parks and rec member Dorothy Trgina, 82.