Edgerton delays dog decision

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September 8, 2010
— Edgerton’s K-9 program stalled Tuesday after the city council voted 3-2 to hold off on discussions over buying a new police dog until fall 2011, when the city plans for its 2012 budget.

The move followed a recommendation Tuesday by the city’s public safety committee that the council wait until the city more fully plans how it could fund and re-establish its K-9 program, which came to a halt in May after the city’s first police dog, Ash, bit and injured a city employee. The city later sold the dog.

Police Chief Tom Klubertanz, the city’s first K-9 handler, in August asked the public safety committee to consider the idea of buying a new police dog. At the time, the committee asked for more information on costs to buy and train a new police dog.

Klubertanz gave the city estimates from several police dog kennels in the state, which showed costs to buy and train a police dog vary from $6,000 to $13,500. The estimates included several varieties of dog, including German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and boxers.

There weren’t immediate estimates on how often a police dog could be used in Edgerton.

Some members of the public safety committee were concerned about the price of another police dog. After buying and training Ash, the city has $4,100 left in its K-9 budget this year, according to city figures.

Alderman and public safety committee member Matt McIntyre said he’s concerned the city could have to spend at least $20,000 for at least one new police vehicle within the next year.

He said he believes that expense is a bigger priority than a new police dog, at least this year.

Other officials Tuesday wondered how much more it would cost to have a union police officer become the dog’s handler.

Under an earlier agreement, Klubertanz had offered to handle and house the city’s police dog without charging the city overtime. But Klubertanz has since declined to remain the department’s K-9 handler, telling officials at an earlier meeting he believed he was thrown under the bus over the police dog bite incident in May.

Klubertanz had left Ash unleashed before the bite occurred.

“Now we’re talking, because it’s not you, it’s more wages,” Alderwoman and public safety committee member Andrea Egerstaffer told Klubertanz Tuesday.

Klubertanz said he didn’t have estimates on how much extra it could cost to have a union police officer as the city’s K-9 handler, but he said he’s provided examples of how other police departments have worked to adjust overtime costs for a K-9 program.

Alderman Ken Westby criticized the public safety committee Tuesday for not agreeing to spend money on what he called a valuable policing tool.

“When you need to replace rifles, you budget them in and replace rifles,” Westby said. “You don’t bat an eye.”

Edgerton resident Carol Miller on Tuesday called the city’s K-9 program fabulous but warned the council that problems can come if any dog or its handler is undertrained.

Before the council voted to stall talks on getting a new police dog, Alderman Dave Thomas said he believed the city’s first foray into K-9 policing was researched poorly.

“As we all know, it didn’t work,” Thomas said. “Let’s do it right if we’re going to do it. We have to do a lot more research.”

Klubertanz said late Tuesday he was disappointed the council decided to delay talks about getting another police dog.

“To me, public safety is current, not a year or two years from now,” he said.

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