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September 22, 2021

7/23/2021 11:09:00 AM
Lakes Area Police get commission approval to structure for code enforcement hours; lobbyist for public safety building sought

Two part time positions on Lakes Area Police Department will be combined to create a fulltime officer for code enforcement detail for Lindstrom and Chisago City.  

The Police Commission voted 4-0 last week (Marie Rivers attending for Bob Gustafson) to reclassify the part time 14th officer position and roll it in with the vacant Community Service Officer slot.

Police Chief Bill Schlumbohm told the commissioners that Chisago City and Lindstrom are experiencing mounting difficulties with rental properties, nuisance (junk) parcels and neighborhood conflicts.  

Being able to devote a position to handling these types of issues should resolve a consistency issue,  with repeat calls to same addresses being responded to now by different personnel. The person on the case that day has to familiarize themselves on past documentation and the chief said this hasn’t been an efficient way to handle these incidents.  

There is a need for someone who has time to follow-up and provide guidance to help rectify housing concerns and provide access to  counseling when needed.

The officer needs to also be able to be tapped for regular law enforcement hours when needed.  The best place to put this position now is in with the police roster,  because both cities are in the service territory.

Lindstrom City Administrator John Olinger told the commission, “We just don’t have (full-time) code enforcement, this would really help, staff would appreciate it.”

Police Commission member/Lindstrom Mayor Kevin Stenson said he has personal experience with rental property in a metro suburb and properties there must have a license. The license fee covers costs of an inspection annually to check a property for standards and  expenses for enforcement.

At this time Lindstrom and Chisago City aren’t prepared to go down that road, the commissioners shared. There have been city council discussions about improving options in housing for renters who are victims of unethical property owners, and talks continue.  Council member Marie Rivers, Chisago City, commented that renters are afraid to complain because they have nowhere to go;  and to initiate a lawsuit or legal process to force repairs, etc takes money that renters don’t have.  “They get painted into a corner...it’s not fair.”

Stenson said having the ability to address issues more comprehensively at the outset will reduce incident calls overall and hopefully avoid seeing code related aggravations escalating into criminal actions.

The commission was advised the newly created fulltime slot will add about $12,500 to the budget, (to be split between the two cities) which can be covered for the six months of this year but will have to be built into the 2022 levy.

In another matter— the commission asked staff to bring some proposals to review for hiring a lobbyist for a new law enforcement center.  The site has been chosen, on Karmel Avenue in Chisago City next to the fire hall and public works facility. The funding needed is estimated around $8 million, in 2024-2025 dollars.

Schlumbohm reports there has been a $3 million request included in the Governor’s 2022 Bonding List, but this is a very preliminary step on a journey towards state aid.  Even if the Lakes Area Police were given that by the state, it leaves $2.5 million from each city to be paid for.
Lobbyist services RFPs will be sought by City Administrator John Olinger, and brought for review at the next  police commission meeting in September.

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