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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

By Shane Spoo: My response to criticism of police support

Dear Editor,

Months ago I made a personal offer to Mr. Ed Kaufenberg to contact me any time he had issues relating to me as a village trustee or the village of Darien in general.

Mr Kaufenberg subsequently declined the offer and told me that he would rather publish his concerns in the paper so everyone knows what he's thinking; in lieu of speaking with me directly.

I emphasize the importance of open communication and believe that it is necessity of municipal government, but I also have concerns when citizens freely publicize information that is only half-truths, at very best.

It's obvious by the repeated comments made by the Kaufenberg's that they don't support me, or protective services. and their bitterness shows through as a result.

I personally would like to take the opportunity to publicly thank the men and women of the Darien Police Department and the Darien Fire and Rescue members for their tireless and sometimes unappreciated efforts in protecting the lives and property within the community.

In rebuttal to Mr. Kaufenberg's letter to the editor (Letters, The Week, Feb. 10), he voiced concerns about me and the fact that I supported a 6.5 percent wage increase for the police chief, and the fact that it was the largest increase in the history of the community.

If Mr. Kaufenberg would have actually researched the "history" like I did prior to making that comment, he would have found that to the best of my knowledge, Greg Epping received a 26.5 percent increase in pay as well as Connie Machi an approximated 10.5 percent increase in one year.

Both of these increases were awarded under the old administration that publicly told members of the board and the community, "you have to believe in the decisions of the committees or we'd never get anything done."

In addition, what Mr. Kaufenberg didn't comment on was the fact that the current police chief's salary in the year 2007 was still less than the former police chief was making in the year 2003 upon retirement; and considerably less than the surrounding comparable communities are making presently.

Contract negotiations are still being held with the department supervisors and reductions of benefits are being looked at.

Mr. Kaufenbergs also fails to mention that I was, and still am, highly opposed to a contract passed outside of my presence for the Department of Public Works that allows them to change their work hours from summer to winter, and receive a paid lunch, an increase of 5 percent in pay among other contractual benefits that are a fiscal liability to the community.

The Kaufenbergs continually state their concerns about police staffing. Again, if they had done their research they would find that the police department has not increased their staffing since 1998 when chief Michalek and former President Wenzel received grant money for two police officers to be added to the existing staffing.

According to a recently published 2007 annual report by the police department, they handled 3,673 calls for service in the year 1999 in comparison to 5,801 calls for service in 2007; an increase of more than 63 percent in volume and 0 percent increase in staffing.

Contrary, both the village hall and DPW have increased staffing to accommodate an increase workload and I've heard no suggestions by Mr. Kaufenberg to reduce their staffing.

Mr. Kaufenberg seems to forget that the police department is the only department in the community that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

According to the 2007 annual police report, the police department had a budget surplus for at least the past two years in excess of $50,000 that will aid in developing a much needed contingency fund for the community.

A lot of the excess money was due to the chief applying for grants and obtaining free equipment that enabled the police department to save budgeted money.

So see Mr. Kaufenberg, change was needed and it seems that the current board is in the process of being fiscally responsible as well as dealing with inherited issues under old administration.

Shane Spoo
Village of Darien Trustee

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