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November 20, 2018

3/1/2018 3:45:00 PM
Lakes Area Police agreement sub-committee starts talks on actual Lindstrom proposal

The second meeting of a six-person subcommittee looking into revising the Lakes Area Police department joint powers agreement took place February 20.  Subcommittee member Jeremy Dresel was visible on a monitor and contributed via the Internet, as he was out-of-town.

The City of Lindstrom through its representative Kevin Stenson,  laid out a proposal last week to revise the agreement.
The Lakes Area Police are supported financially by Lindstrom and Chisago City 50-50. Future cost sharing  is proposed to be based on a formula involving population, call numbers and each city’s market valuation.  

This formula-based funding  approach was requested by Lindstrom, whose  officials perceive the 50-50 split as not fair.

Stenson said Lindstrom is willing to continue the agreement as-is for another five years with the current 50-50 funding formula. In “Year Six” a formula would become part of the funding equation.

When the current five-year contract expires in June Lindstrom also proposes extending the term of the police department joint powers contract to 10 years instead of being renewable every five.  

Lindstrom had raised concerns during budgeting time in fall of 2017,  about the 50-50 split. Law enforcement personnel and operations are not being demanded or provided nearly as equally,  as when the two cities mereged their police about 15 years ago, according to a majority of the Lindstrom city council.    Lindstrom officials say Chisago City’s growth (annexed-in land mass and population) since the police departments’ merger has out-paced Lindstrom.

The number of calls to Chisago City addresses or incident locations exceeds  Lindstrom-originated calls.

The tax capacity (market valuation) component that Lindstrom also wants;  relates to the ability of a taxing entity to raise taxes. The tax burden on a single property  in Lindstrom is greater than in Chisago City,  to generate the same total amount to fund the department. Commercial and industrial parcels play a big role in how the tax burden is spread over property taxes and the percentage of overall valuation attached to non-tax paying parcels (schools, churches) also has an impact.

Chisago City Administrator John Pechman told subcommittee members this is overly-complicated and these are things having no effect on providing law enforcement.  His bottom line is, he said, “Chisago City doesn’t want less service (than today).”  

How we got to here, was that Lindstrom Council requested the Lakes Area police commission look into the joint powers contract,  and come up with wording to give future city councils guidance on cost-sharing-- beyond a simple 50-50 split.  

The police commission named the subcommittee to start the process.  (Curt Flug is the ony one who doesn’t also serve on the police commission.)

Flug said Lindstrom officials would probably be willing to go out 15 years on the agreement, responding to Chisago City representative Bob Gustafson, who explained a joint powers contract term needs to provide “stability” to the department. “Ten years passes pretty quick,” he added.

The Chisago city council is going to review what was discussed last week and provide feedback on the trio of formula factors proposed by Lindstrom-- plus provide council thoughts on the 15 year term issue.  

The next time the subcommittee would see the council input/suggestions will likely be the next subcommittee meeting March 19.

Chisago City Administrator Pechman was no fan of the three parameters for a cost-share formula as presented.  

He asked if the department activity (calls) needs to be tracked these next five years, and a “rolling average” calculated for when year six might trigger the new funding wording.  

His opinion is that population “density” is a greater driver of law enforcement services/costs, than just comparing population headcounts.  

And, does the police commission count all calls as equal?  Does a barking dog complaint equate to an armed robbery or assault, or will there be a weighted formula?   
Stenson agreed the subcommittee can consider weighting certain criminal cases, and “...there could be more thought to that.”

Dresel, who was dealing with audio problems over the Internet,  commented that he can only support considerations for a formula that can be attributed as “part of police service.”

Flug offered as “...just a thought” to extend expiration of the current contract (now in June) so the deadline doesn’t hamper having in depth negotiations-- but nobody liked that approach.

Gustafson said resolving this is too important, saying, “To me it’s urgent we get this done.”

Hundreds of citizens attended a Lindstrom budget work session a few months ago to express support for the Lakes Area department.  A call for action went out over social media, erroneously,  that the Lindstrom elected officials were railroading getting rid of the Lakes Area Department.

There had been an overture to the sheriff to learn more about costs for patrol and investigative services.  The Lindstrom Council saw an example of costs for contracted  services  in the process of collecting financial background;  which was taken by some as an attempt to disband Lakes Area Police.  Flug stressed again at the subcommittee meeting last week it has NEVER been the city’s intention to abolish Lakes Area Police and hopes are to negotiate the best value for city taxpayers.

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