During Monday’s regular meeting with a relatively short agenda, city commissioners approved an alteration to the city’s personnel policies in hopes of helping with public safety recruitment.
The new policy allows for the city manager and the chief of each city public safety department to waive the residency requirement in place for members of the police and fire departments, respectively. The old policy stated that police department employees had to live within 10 minutes of city limits and fire department employees had to live within 10 minutes of the fire station. The new one increases that range to 20 minutes for police department employees, but also allows for limited exceptions for each department at the discretion of the chief and the city manager.
“This was one of those policies that can make it difficult to compete for young talent,” Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson said. “Of course, we prefer that our officers live in our community, but under special circumstances we wouldn’t want to lose a good officer just because of where they might need to live.”
City Manager Becky Berger said the new policy won’t spark a wave of hiring employees who won’t live in Atchison.
“For safety reasons we need to have a minimum number of police and fire employees who can respond at a moment’s notice,” Berger said. “We will use this very sparingly, if at all. But we also need to acknowledge the reality that it is getting more difficult to find quality public safety officers, not less.
“We shouldn’t limit ourselves unless we have to.”
The new policy also specifically protects employees from harassment and ensures equal opportunity for employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Previously, the policy just protected against discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability and other protected characteristics.
It was also announced on Monday that there will be a special commission meeting on Monday, June 29. The reason for the special meeting is that there will be budget workshops during the next two regular meetings – Monday, June 15 and Tuesday, July 7 – and the need for business discussions between Monday’s meeting and the next non-budget workshop meeting on Monday, July 20.