1/15/2021 10:01:00 AM Is it time to tap a new law enforcement team? City council looking into possibility
Taylors Falls City Council had a couple of guests in the meeting room Monday night this week, as Chisago County Sheriff Brandon Thyen and Sgt. Cliff Sheppeck were on the agenda for a discussion about Taylors Falls’ sheriff patrol contract. Sheppeck succeeds Shane Carroll in 2021 as the primary “south-end” officer and will be the person assigned to Taylors Falls, Center City and Shafer. Sheriff Thyen said having multiple contracts lets him schedule and support wages for a fulltime person in the basic Highway 8 region and he’d be disappointed to lose any of the agreements.
The sheriff also contracts with “north-end” areas like Harris and Rush City and the City of Stacy is close to fulltime weekly hours itself in the middle of the county.
First off— Mayor Mike Buchite declared that rumors around town that the council wants to “defund the police” are absurd. The council is reviewing contract changes made by the sheriff to the terms for 2021, simply analyzing the potential to contract with another law enforcement agency.
Council member Mary Jo Murphy said public safety costs are 27 percent of Taylors Falls’ budget and the ever-increasing expenses warrant a review.
Taylors Falls pays for 36 hours per week to have a peace officer from the county sheriff’s office provide direct hours to Taylors Falls. As a county agency, though, city residents who also support the sheriff in their property taxes, can still rely on county response at times outside of contracted hours.
Contracting with St. Croix Falls, across the river, is out of the question. Legal advice is the interstate law enforcement issues are insurmountable.
The main concern was that the hours being provided by Sheppeck have been revised to run from two in the afternoon to two in the morning. Council members do not feel this is a benefit to Taylors Falls.
Sheriff Thyen acknowledged the terms for 2021 got communicated to council a little later than he would have liked, adding “I’m sorry about that.” He shared a lengthy explanation about balancing costs for a supervisor level person in a patrol contract capacity and how custom hours in a contract impacts scheduling and rates, but council didn’t appear swayed by this.
Costs per hour continue to escalate. Council’s perception is the “crime rate” in the city is not being contained. Public safety liaison Council member Mary Jo Murphy approached Lakes Area Police about service possibilities and she asked for an official council action directing her to continue preliminary outreach to LAPD.
The conversation Monday night ended with council unanimously reaching a consensus that Murphy continue working with LAPD. (Lakes Area Dept. service territory now includes Chisago City and Lindstrom. Center City and Shafer lie between Lindstrom and Taylors Falls.)
Mayor Buchite commented, “There’s nothing wrong with looking.” He said all he is after is the best law enforcement services for the city that can be provided. He added that Lakes Area wants it known they did not reach out to us, we went to them.
Council member Larry Julik-Heine said he is in favor of exploratory efforts and trying to ensure the city gets what it needs.
In other business: Troy Aanonsen was sworn in for his first term, elected to fill John Tangen’s seat. Tangen did not seek re-election. (Council member Ross Rivard was absent.)
All good things come to an end, one of these being the trade-in agreement for skid steer equipment the city has had with Baribeau Implement of St Croix Falls. For this year the normally $1,500 cash payment to get a skid steer replacement with the trade of the existing— is going to $5,000. Council needed to find an extra $3,500 to continue the upgrade program for what amounts to the use of a $70,000 piece of equipment with a guaranteed trade- in before there are repair or maintenance expenses. Council agreed to find the money needed and hope the old deal comes back.
~ Council accepted a grant from the One OK Foundation for $4,627 for a manifold and related vehicle equipment for the fire department.
~ Tangen had previously served on the heritage Preservation Commission and Murphy was appointed to that seat. Aanonsen took Murphy’s seat on the Economic Development Commission. He also is now on the Civil Defense Directors group.
~ Action setting hourly compensation went quickly and the pay rates are: librarian $11.66, zoning administrator $28.75, maintenance worker $27.25, public works superintendent $32.57 and clerk-treasurer $22.25.