Analysis recommends more public safety employees

In a May 2 meeting eclipsed by a historic tobacco ordinance, the Edina City Council also heard recommendations on public safety funding, as well as an update on the walking bridges at Centennial Lakes Park.
City Manager Scott Neal said that creating a sense of personal safety and responding to calls for help are two of the most important functions of city government.
“Survey after survey says Edina does a good job of responding,” Neal said. “The job satisfaction is good –[they] feel like they are making a positive difference.”
Neal added that the public safety staffing analysis was meant to ask the question to how best provide the services as the demand for services increases.
The report was not simply a list of demands, nor “a prediction that the sky will fall” if not followed through, Neal said, but instead a helpful tool for the city and the council to guide for the future.
Novak Consulting was tasked with assessing and analyzing the police and fire department’s call and service loads.
Jonathan Ingram of Novak Consulting provided 41 recommendations in technology, staffing adjustments, and process and development after interviewing 50 staff members involved with both the fire and police departments.
The Edina Police Department was described as a “destination department” – a place where other police officers in neighboring communities wish to work at, partially due to being seen as an exemplary department.
“[The police department] has a high commitment of proactive policing,” Ingram said. “Our recommendations will help keep that high commitment.”
Calls for service, however, have been increasing. In the past three years of data, there has been a 20 percent increase, which not only takes away from time spent in proactive policing, but is also expecting to continue increasing.
“The proactive policing rate goes down as calls go up, and this is significant for a couple of reasons – the department hasn’t added personnel in three years,” Ingram said. “If there is a desire to maintain historic service levels, there are implications from a policy and resource perspective.”
On the fire department side, primary concerns included the staffing levels in the face of a changing workload and the ability to respond to fire events.
On average, 75 percent of calls made to fire department were EMS calls – a 40-plus percent increase in a 20-year period. This means that fire prevention staff are often used as an EMS unit.
Council members said the analysis would be useful for future discussions for staffing and funding purposes.
“I think we have an attention to very much keep it [first rate].” Councilmember Bob Stewart said. “I think this work is important and helps create a measurement.”

Centennial Lakes Park
Final designs to replace two walking bridges at Centennial Lakes Park were approved unanimously later in the meeting. Centennial Lakes Park General Manager Tom Shirley said its aim was to keep the high level of aesthetics, but also wanted to increase the accessibility.
“The steepness has created a major hurdle for patrons in the past,” Shirley said.
The estimated
construction cost for the two new pedestrian bridges is $720,000.
At a meeting in November, it was decided that the cost would be made up through the Park Dedication fee from the Opus Development on Lincoln Drive.
The proposed design has a life expectancy of 75 years with matching railings and walkway to the existing path. However, there will be no steps, and instead, there will be a continual sloped path that allows for wheelchairs and strollers.
If all goes according to plan, bidding will begin in June and construction will begin the day after the Fall into the Arts festival in September with an anticipated completion by December.