Amid protest, the Burlington City Council made official the promotion of the city's new top cop

Burlington has a new police chief.

Dennis Kramer was sworn in to the top administrative role of the Burlington Police Department during Monday's meeting of the Burlington City Council. His appointment was lauded by council members and present police staff, but voices of dissent and protest punctuated the event at both the meeting's beginning and end. Kramer brought a written speech.

"I'm honored to serve as the chief of police of our community, its citizens and the outstanding men and women that serve beside me everyday to make Burlington a great place to live, work and play," Kramer said.

City Manager Jim Ferneau, who picked Kramer from a field of four finalists, said "I am proud to be able to have Maj. Kramer be in the position to be Chief Kramer."

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Moments before the meeting started, a woman stood up from the back row of the room and began shouting demands of justice for Marquis Jones, a man who was shot and killed by the Burlington police in October of 2017. She left the room with a few other people while shouting that her son's killer was free and swearing. Kramer rose, followed the group out and watched them go down the stairs and out of city hall.

And at the meeting's end, the Rev. Fred Starling spoke to the council with concerns on whether the city had properly done background research on its new chief. He spoke of biases against certain groups of people.

"Does he [Kramer] have that type of mentality . . .  that's going to discriminate against one over another individual?" Starling said.

Nuisances

The council approved the first of three votes altering nuisance code to become more enforceable and to please the city's legal team.

The main change would alter the city's requirement when punishing things like long grass and garbage-riddled properties. The city would still put an orange notice on properties, but a certified letter would no longer be sent. Instead, the city would post a list of potential violations in its newspaper of record, The Hawk Eye, once a year.

The changes also reorder some other sections within city code. A section on the city's right of entry received some public scrutiny from citizens who are concerned that it would let inspectors trespass, but the section already exists in city code, and its new version actually adds a requirement that the city give written notice for entry 24 hours ahead of time and that property owners can deny that entry.

In council discussion, Mayor Shane McCampbell quickly said he wasn't comfortable with the change. He'd rather the council vote it down and have staff rewrite an ordinance, delaying it by at least a month.

Councilman Matt Rinker and Councilwoman Lynda Murray both disagreed, urging McCampbell and Councilman Jon Billups to vote in favor and work out any wanted amendments during next week's work session.

Billups' opinion shifted throughout the discussion, and for a time it appeared he would side with McCampbell and vote against. Such a vote would have killed the proposal, as Councilwoman Annie Wilson was not present to cast a fifth vote.

At one point, McCampbell leaned in and whispered in Billups' ear for several seconds. Billups then echoed McCampbell's argument for a few minutes, before the others apparently won him over.

"At this point I'm not ready to vote yes on this," Billups said, shortly after pausing to let McCampbell whisper in his ear.

Soon after, Billups joined in with Murray and Rinker and voted yes.

Other business

The council unanimously approved new storm water usage fees. The new fees use geographic satellite data to calculate how much impervious property commercial, industrial and multi-residential properties contain, and then bills their owners accordingly. The change will bring larger fees for owners of properties with lots of impervious space, such as parking lots.

The council approved a $1.9 million contract with Mike Nelson Concrete Paving to widen Agency Street east of Roosevelt Avenue. The project was budgeted at $1.86 million, with the difference coming from road use tax revenues.