Village ponders police lobby hours

Public Safety Committee on Thursday to consider cutbacks that may end round-the-clock availability
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Village of Grafton Public Safety Committee will discuss how to maintain an around-the-clock safe haven for residents who seek assistance at the police station.

During a 6 p.m. meeting Thursday, June 21, at the Grafton fire station, the committee is expected to recommend hours of operation for the station lobby, which is currently open day and night. 

Historically, the lobby has been managed by police dispatchers, but after the village transferred dispatching services to Ozaukee County’s Sheriff’s Department in April, the current staffing model for the police department is no longer applicable.

Earlier this month, the Village Board tabled a recommendation to keep the six police dispatchers by creating clerical support staff positions, instead referring the matter back to the Finance Committee. 

Last year, according to village documents, 10,291 people stopped in the police station lobby. The majority of visits (5,586) occurred during first shift, while second shift had 4,294 and third shift had 411.

According to a report by Village Administrator Jesse Thyes, there is no data outlining the reasons for the lobby visits, but he said people stop there for emergency requests, traffic directions, citation payments and general inquiries. 

Thyes said the primary reason to maintain a 24/7 lobby is because it’s considered a safe haven for residents and visitors.

In a letter to the Ozaukee Press, village Trustee Sue Meinecke said Grafton is the biggest shopping destination in the county and the police department lobby is vital for keeping the community safe.

“Our police department is the most accessible to Interstate 43,” she said. “We are the safe haven for people who need help. A safe haven is not just a locked room, it is having a uniformed professional to offer medical, emotional and safety assistance.

“Keeping our police department lobby open 24/7 is what Grafton is about. It’s a quality of life and safety issue.”

Public Safety Committee Chairman Lisa Uribe Harbeck told Ozaukee Press she is not opposed to keeping the lobby open but wants to look at the cost and how the lobby is used. During the past 21 months, 1.3 people per night entered the lobby during third shift, which Uribe Harbeck said doesn’t justify keeping it open 24/7.         

For 2018, the village budgeted $463,290 for 6.5 full-time employees to work the lobby around the clock.

In his report, Thyes outlined several models for keeping the lobby open at different times and number of employees able to manage it. 

“Maintaining 24/7 access to the lobby does not necessarily drive the cost (to maintain the service), rather it is whether or not there is a staff member immediately available at the lobby window,” Thyes said.

The total cost to maintain the lobby around the clock with five full-time employees is $375,322. 

In other cost models, Thyes projected a lobby open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. that is staffed by four employees and cost $300,257. 

If the lobby is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with two employees, it would cost the village $150,129. The cost would be $75,064 if it is staffed by one employee from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Officials said any new lobby hours would take effect Jan. 1.

Police Chief Charles Wenten said he supports keeping the lobby open 24/7.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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