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October 18, 2018

1/26/2018 3:09:00 PM
First police agreement subcommittee meeting leaves issues unresolved

If housing starts for Chisago City,  ending the year 2017 at a total of 33, versus Lindstrom’s 16 permits holds as a trend;  the capita imbalance between the two is only going to become more of an issue when it comes to the rift over equal cost-sharing of the Lakes Area Police Dept .  

The 50-50 split supporting the law enforcement services in the two cities has caused Lindstrom and Chisago City to name a subcommittee to investigate police department funding and report back.  The agreement is up for renewal this summer.
When the individual departments merged in 2005 it was agreed to split the budget 50-50.  The situation has evolved  and the earlier balance of origination of calls for service is changing, the land area with annexations spreading-out Chisago City borders is no longer comparable, and population growth is occuring in one area more so than the other.

Data from the Census Bureau and state demographer shows Chisago at 5,272 population and Lindstrom at 4,503.  Households are tallied at 1,826 in Lindstrom and Chisago has over 2,000.  The number of people within the households varies, but it’s around 2.4 for both.

Data on land mass presented by the cities is Lindstrom at 3.6 miles.  Chisago City covers 12.5 miles.

The subcommittee is comprised of Kevin Stenson and Curt Flug, with Lindstrom City Administrator John Olinger and Bob Gustafson, Jeremy Dresel and City Administrator John Pechman represent Chisago City, and the Chief of Police Bill Schlumbohm is also asked to serve on the subcommittee.  They started dialogue last week meeting for a little over an hour on the upcoming expiring agreement.

Lindstrom expressed concerns first, during budget time for setting next year’s levy.  

There was a public input meeting where most of the public, mistakenly, shared opinions based on their impression Lakes Area Police Department was on the chopping block.  

Dissolving the department has never been expressed  by council, Kevin Stenson stressed at the start of the subcommittee’s session last week.

He added, Lindstrom intends to renew the agreement this summer when the five-year LAPD contract lapses.  

Stenson said Lindstrom’s concern relates to “ ...growth and at what point does one city...encroach on the other entity’s service level?”

Stenson said he’s hoping the subcommittee can draft a funding scenario where a longer-term contract can be the base but an annual review would allow for adjustments in funding levels. The unknown is what’s the trigger?  He acknowledged nobody has defined that... is that a percentage of calls to one city versus the overall total-- or is it a set number that defines a discrepancy in service.

Bob Gustafson said a longer term contract would be great. He questioned how an annual review would be conducted however.
He claimed LAPD officer turnover is an issue due to uncertainty about the department.  “Our officers have no security in their job,” he stated.  Gustafson and Dresel shared their stance that  length of contract is the only item needing revision.  

Gustafson added the ability of a city to generate tax revenue has “nothing to do with this.”  He said, “We both OWN the department 50-50” adding it is not a capital item.

Curt Flug felt tax capacity should be a factor in reviewing cost-sharing.

When there’s a difference in two entities’ ability to generate taxes (ie: valuation, number of taxable parcels) this creates unfair conditions.  The current 50-50 agreement expecting a lower tax capacity city to come up with equal money, bothers him. He wondered aloud if a study could be done to flesh-out what two similarly-valued  parcels pay into the LAPD as a percent of valuation,  and do a comparison between the two cities.  (There was no direction given to staff to actually do this.)

Chief Schlumbohm reminded the group that right around the time of the merger an analysis of calls was done, related to the township dissolution and what to plan for with annexation area shifting into Chisago City.  There were “peaks and valleys,” and Chief Schlumbohm’s takeaway from this is any review of service would have to be based on a multi-year trend because the nature of policing is so variable from year to year.  

He suggested a “base” level of service could be developed.  When one city exceeds this that city can add service at its own cost.
As for the five year term of the joint powers agreement, Stenson observed the joint powers agreement has an exit clause with notice,  and it can be changed at almost any time by a vote of police commission members.  

Stenson added, “There’s no such thing as contract assurances, I don’t think that exists.  The next people (elected officials) who sit here are able to say ‘we’re going to do things differently.”‘

Chisago City Administrator Pechman stated Chisago City thinks it’s up to Lindstrom to create a proposal, a starting point.  He said, “Bring something to us...we don’t know what you want...we don’t think you know what you want.”

Said Dresel,  “The beauty of the contract is it’s simple. Let’s not start making it complicated.”
The next subcommittee meeting will be February 20 at 5:45 p.m. at Lindstrom city hall.

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