Police investigators may soon be searching suspect's vehicles for clues in comfort.
The city's Personnel and Finance Committee approved spending $572,000 on upgrades to a building at the police department's impound lot.
The project, funded by leftover money from other construction projects, would fix the roof on a building used to house suspect vehicles in homicides and other serious crimes. Police are required to store vehicles used in homicides basically forever, Police Chief Kurt Wahlen told the committee. The vehicles are parked in a building and occassionally reviewed for additional evidence in unsolved crimes. But a leaky roof and general disrepair of the structure, called the "South Building," makes it unpleasant.
"There isn't a place in the entire South Building you could stand and not get wet in a rain storm," said Wahlen, who appeared at the building with Public Works Director Rick Jones. "It's a nasty, nasty building."
Along with basic repairs, the project calls for indoor, heated bays for police to investigator vehicles for clues. The bays will be an improvement over the existing office, which is unheated and has bathrooms that don't work.
The committee approved the request with minimal discussion. Alderman Michael Shields only asked that police protect vehicles impounded for minor crimes. Those cars and trucks are left outside, and are occassionally broken into - at the owner's expense.
Wahlen said there's not much police can do to stop people from breaking into cars in the impound lot.
"As long as we have an impound lot, people will come on the lot and take stuff," he said.
In other news from the Personnel and Finance Committee:
* The committee may have a tough time reaching quorum for the next few months. Committee Chairman Tom Friedel is off being mayor and won't attend, and Vice Chairman Alderman Jim Spangenberg was gone Monday night. That left Shields and Alderman Bob Anderson to handle a bulk of the voting, with Alderman David Maack serving as chairman.
* Anderson and Shields split on a vote Monday night over a 1997 Chevy Monte Carlo that was hit by a city plow and totalled. That may sound like something the city should pay for, but the car was completely buried under a pile of snow and parked on the wrong side of the street for alternate side parking. The plow driver simply thought there was a pile of snow, according to Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney. Shields said both the car owner and plow driver were at fault and voted against a motion to dismiss the car owner's claim. Anderson and Maack voted to dismiss.
* City concert band members may not be city employees much longer. The committee voted to direct Letteney to work out a deal to sever the concert band from city operations. The city will still support the organization. The move is proposed to limit the city's liability in the event of an accident or theft involving the band.