Finance committee approves funds for police chief search
Salary range for new chief listed up to $85,500
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The search for a replacement to Michael Steffes as Rhinelander’s police chief received the financial backing Tuesday from the city’s Finance, Wage and Salary Committee.
Committee members met with members of the city’s Police and Fire Commission, which has authority to hire a new police chief after Steffes works his last day Nov. 1 and leaves to begin a position with the state Department of Justice. However, the City Council has the responsibility of financing the search for a new chief and how much that person could be paid.
Commission chairman Todd McEldowney noted commission members put together a proposed job posting for which the next chief’s compensation and the time to close application process would be up to council members.
“It would be our recommendation – we don’t deal with the finance part – but as far as the applications are concerned, we would propose that we would have those applications submitted by the end of the year,” McEldowney said. “So that would give us 60 days’ time to get the applications, go through the selection process and do the recruitment that we need to do.”
McEldowney mentioned the possibility of bringing in a consultant to help the city in the selection process “to try to encourage as many good candidates as possible to come before our city, so we can hire the best chief possible.”
“While we’re going to be steadfast in doing a thorough search, we want to do it in a cost-effective way, so that we’re not going to be spending a lot of the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
McEldowney said the commission received three bids for a third-party consultant, including one from the same firm previously involved in the process leading up the hiring of Rhinelander’s city administrator last year, along with another firm and a former Oneida County sheriff’s officer. He noted additional bids could be sought for other possible third-party consultants.
For budgetary purposes, McEldowney suggested designating funds for the recruitment process in the 2016 budget and placing funds for the selection process in a line item for 2017 with $3,000 budgeted for this year, which could be a retainer for a consultant, and a maximum of $6,000 budgeted for next year. Committee members agreed to those budgeted amounts.
As to whether those funds would actually need to be spent, McEldowney suggested waiting to see how the application process goes, and if the response to the posting wouldn’t be what the commission would like when it meets in early December, a third-party consultant could then be hired.
“If we feel we are getting a good response, then maybe that might not be necessary, but we can determine that as a commission at the time of that early December meeting,” he said.
After completing the application process, McEldowney said he hopes the commission will go through the applications and reduce the number of candidates for consideration as police chief.
“At that point we can utilize the services of a third-party consultant; we can utilize services of area police chiefs who can meet as a panel with a narrowed-down field,” he said. “We have suggested, perhaps, a community night, where the candidates can get a chance to mingle informally with citizens of community, so they can add some input.
“At the same time, we can take the (police chief candidates’) families around town and introduce them to the city, because you’re not just hiring a chief, you’re hiring a family. You’re hiring somebody who has a spouse who needs to like it here…because we want a working chief. We don’t want a chief that wants to come up here and retire.”
Committee members discussed possibly basing the salary range for the next police chief on a pending wage scale study being done for the city, but then agreed, to not have to wait to post the vacancy, to use an approximate salary range of between $79,000 and $85,500, based on the current annual salaries of the police chief and captain.