Snow removal is always interesting this time of year, public works director Robin Bobzien told the Aberdeen City Council Monday night.
Monday’s clean-up effort was unusual, Bobzien said, because of the volume of snow and “how wet that snow is. It really is a whole different animal."
“I would say we probably ended up with a lot more complaints because of the snow in the driveways, things of that nature,” Bobzien said. “People are just tired of winter and they want to see it done and they don't want to deal with the inconveniences that are the result of this.”
Crews planned to plow in the commercial zone downtown starting at 10 p.m. Monday. “It's going to be a bear to clean up because there's a lot of water in this and it does not blow very well, so it will be tough,” Bobzien said.
Councilman Clint Rux said he had seen damage in some areas of town, the result of city streets being soft. Rux said the damage was not in big areas.
Bobzien had not had a chance to talk to city employees Monday to to find out what kind of damage was done to streets. Damage incurred in Thursday's snow removal was not “quite as bad as we expected, which is good,” Bobzien said. But workers are doing some damage and, as Rux said, it seems to be limited to smaller areas, Bobzien said.
Repairing smaller areas is possible, Bobzien said. If you tear up an entire block of an area then “you have to question the wisdom of going out and doing the snow removal. But given the amount of snow we had, you didn't have a choice.”
As part of the city manager's report, Aberdeen Police Chief Don Lanpher Jr. gave the Police Department's annual report for 2012.
Councilman Mark Remily asked Lanpher about the size of the department. The Aberdeen Police Department has 44 sworn officers. Aberdeen, Remily said, has more police officers per capita than any city in the state. Remily noted that Brookings has 35 officers. That city's population is about 30,000 people nine months of the year. “Those kids are more inclined to be in trouble than our older population is,” Remily said.
Rux pointed out that South Dakota State University has its own security force, so the numbers may be deceiving.
Lanpher said there are two theories regarding the size of a police department. One is to base it on population; the ratio is usually 1.7 to 2 officers per thousand.
“I tend not to do that because I base it on calls for service,” Lanpher said. “If we're busy, we're busy. If we're not, that's fine. But if you're looking at what we have, go look at their clearance rates and see what they do. If they're in a 60 to 70 percent, we’re in a 90 percent, which means if people commit crime here, we catch them.
“They get punished for it. In a lot of these other communities, they don't. They have open cases. We're very good. We have some very, very good employees who do a great job for the community. We don't have the violent crime that some of these communities have either,” Lanpher said.
Aberdeen officers get more than 100 calls a day. The calls for service totaled 25,000 last year. Based on current numbers, that number will exceed 30,000 calls this year, he said.
The Aberdeen department tracks every call that comes in. “A lot of places don't track everything. We track everything that comes in,” Lanpher said.
Councilman David Bunsness pointed out that a number of years ago, council members voted to increase the size of the police department and Aberdeen Fire and Rescue. Mayor Mike Levsen noted that federal money was used to add officers several years ago. The city picks up the cost of those officers beginning in the fourth year, Lanpher said.
Responding to a question from Levsen, Lanpher said that when there are job openings, the department doesn't get a lot of applicants but those who do apply are quality individuals, oftentimes with college degrees.
One thing that draws people is the department's technology, he said. Aberdeen is the only department in the state that has the Taser Axon Flex system, in which officers are equipped with their own cameras. That system is beneficial in increasing prosecutions and “reducing internal investigations resulting from citizen complaints of officer wrongdoing,” the annual report reads.
Bunsness asked Lanpher about the number of cases involving sexual contact with a minor. In 2012, Aberdeen detectives investigated 41 such cases.
Lanpher said that number is nowhere near as large “as what's happening on the Internet.”
“We live in a very safe community but there are predators out there,” he said.
Lanpher praised the city's Public Safety Building. Representatives of other departments, such as the one in West Fargo, N.D., have visited Aberdeen to look at the building.
Also at Monday's meeting, the council heard from planning and zoning director Brett Bill that there may be a problem with the home of the late William Fry, which sits on the block on which the city may build a new library. The building is a contributing historical structure to the Hagerty and Lloyd Historical District. The decision as to what to do with the building ultimately resides with the council. The council directed Bill to proceed with a case study regarding the building.