|10/1/2021 1:23:00 PM|
Bonding projects site visits include Lakes Area PD request
A coach bus, carrying state senators and staff members around the State of Minnesota over three days last week, made a stop in Lindstrom towards the end of Thursday.The Senators serve on a bonding bill committee that reviews as many applications for upcoming bond proceeds as possible. Along with a similar committee in the MN House, they’ll bring recommended projects for inclusion in a final bonding package when the lawmakers come together again in February. (The comparable House committee is scheduled to tour the Lakes Area Police Dept. in early October.)
The reason Lindstrom was on the senators’ itinerary is a request for $3 million to assist in constructing a new law enforcement facility.
Senators walked through the existing police offices and viewed a powerpoint presentation that described how law enforcement operations are scattered throughout the Lakes’ service area. Chief Bill Schlumbohm explained that the impound lot is in one location in Chisago City, in a garage elsewhere there is space only to store four of 17 vehicles in use; the administrative activity, like payroll and bookkeeping, are housed in yet another location. And, the main offices are in the north end of Lindstrom City Hall.
Lindstrom Mayor Kevin Stenson explained that when Chisago City and Lindstrom merged police operations in 2004 facility needs were addressed by basically using whatever existed at the time. He continued, “We are doing a good job, making it work, but (the space) is woefully inadequate now.”
Stenson, himself retired from Lakes Area Police in 2016, pointed out that the $3 million request is supported by a proposed $5 million contribution from both cities, resulting in a new $8 million facility.
Senators learned the cities have a policing agreement ensuring Lakes Area Police will be around for 20 years, and Chief Schlumbohm stated that nobody sees the combined service area ever coming apart.
Senator Tom Bakk, District 3 in northern Minnesota, asked about available funds in general, wondering why Lakes Area Police Commission doesn’t have its own taxing authority. He commented state legislators are anxious about the Washington D.C. infrastructure bill, which will impact the level of spending on projects the state will pick-up. The senators still have tours scheduled in the metro area and then they’ll be done with on-site visits. Sen. Bakk reminded the local hosts that the legislature looks to “geographically balance’ its bonding packages.
Chisago City Administrator John Pechman explained the funding mechanisms were reviewed when the merger took place and it was determined that 50-50 was the optimal way to proceed on costs. Officials wanted to avoid the new department being too “complicated” Pechman said and so far it has worked. The police commission develops a budget and the recommended amount goes to each city council to be covered half and half.
There is language in the new long term agreement that allows for expanding LIndstrom or Chisago City hours and staff numbers, at that city’s expense, should future public safety needs become unbalanced.
Here’s what’s been decided for the new facility, including its location, which is on Chisago City-owned land next to the fire hall and public works complex, on Karmel Avenue.
The need is for 17,000 square feet.
Unmet public safety needs or ones that are not well addressed now, include: holding space for offenders, storage for evidence, etc., patrol officer space to do reports, store their change of clothes, plus the department needs training space and vehicle security and protection.