BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – Staff from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department is already at work helping fill in at the Fort Madison Police Department.
As soon as Lee County Supervisors gave unanimous approval Tuesday morning to allow Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber to serve as interim Fort Madison Police Chief for up to six months, staff was dispatched to Fort Madison City Hall.
Fort Madison Police Chief Tim Sittig announced his retirement from the department at the beginning of the month. Weber said Fort Madison City Manager David Varley and Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph reached out to him several weeks ago about possibly overseeing the department while a new chief is found.
The city approved the move at Tuesday’s meeting 5-2 with two city councilman opposing the measure in favor of having current staff take over until a new chief is hired.
Supervisor Matt Plfug asked Weber what he thought the timeline for serving in the interim position would be. Supervisors, along with Varley and Weber discussed possibly moving the agreement from six months to three at last week’s board meeting, but decided instead to put in a three-month review.
“The way this is written is for six months. I have every intention of saddling and riding this thing as quickly as possible to the end. Three months is a nice goal. We’ll see,” Weber said.
“They didn’t like going outside of the command structure that was in existence. There’s some loyalty there and I admire that and didn’t argue with it.”
Supervisor Ron Fedler said regardless of the city, if someone asks for the county’s assistance they should provide it if possible.
“I think it’s part of our responsibility as a board when one of the cities needs our assistance we should step forward and help them. And in this case I understand we’re getting compensated so their shouldn’t be any cost to the county,” Fedler said.
Pflug said the city should have an assistant chief in place and was surprised when no one was identified who could step up into the role.
Weber said it’s his understanding the city is looking for some help along those lines of restructuring command.
In visiting with city council and management they want us to restructure. We’re being hired to do a job and we’ll do what they want. We’ll work closely with the union and get it figured out,” Weber said.
“We will establish a different command structure there and we’ll make sure that if God-forbid something happened to the new chief, that they’re in position to continue on, just like we are here.”
Weber said former Fort Madison police officer Craig Burch, who’s a captain with the county now, will be on site at the FMPD and Chief Deputy Will Conlee will direct Burch and help with scheduling and logistical issues. All decisions will go through Weber.
“We’re meeting with Tim now to see what projects he had in place and how he was financing those and to see if we could do it cheaper. Reviewing contracts and things from the top down. If we can do it cheaper or better, we’re going to.”
Weber said conversations were underway Tuesday after the approval to look at restructuring.
“We’ve been asked to restructure. We’re gonna look at his manpower. Chief Deputy Conlee already has a schedule rough drafted that could put three people on a shift at all times and that automatically increases one officer per shift at least for the time being,” Weber said.
Until he officially steps out on May 31, Weber said his staff and Sittig are overlapping to get fully informed on the processes.
“We’ll visit with him this week and find out how things are being done day to day and find out what’s putting the brakes on some of this stuff,” Weber said.
“Will has a wonderful way of organizing and Captain Burch has a wonderful way of executing, so I’m just putting the team in there, they’ll make recommendations and I’ll approve everything.”
He said out of pure respect, he’s going to have meetings with the current command structure and see what they’re thinking about.
“We want to work with these guys and it’s better if they buy into what we’re thinking,” Weber said.
“Change is difficult sometimes and there’s going to be some difficult things to address but we’re gonna address them. The city’s covering the wages…we’re getting paid… so we’re going to do a job.”