July 21, 2023 at 11:01 a.m.
Police commission members put expenses for funding lobbyist in budget; half still question new facility
Two newly-seated members of the four-person Lakes Area Police Commission representing the City of Lindstrom tried to put the brakes on budgeting for keeping a new police facility on track; but ultimately the lobbyist expense and funding for temporary measures to maintain functionality in the old police space, were approved.
The Police Commission had next year budget-setting on its every other month meeting agenda July 12. Triggering debate was an expense for a lobbyist—as the commission advocates for $3.3 million from the state legislature for about one-third of a new public safety facility.
Lindstrom Mayor Judy Chartrand said the city council wants to slow the potentially $8 to $9 million public safety facility until Lindstrom feels more comfortable with its long term fiscal outlook. The city is in the midst of doing a 10-year plan. On the other hand she argued the police need a Plan B immediately for more space for police functions and to address safety issues. She and Lindstrom Council member Brian Norelius focused on if there truly is a return on investment in continuing a legislative lobbyist contract at $20,000 in next year’s budget.
Chief of Police Schlumbohm said the work that’s been done at the state capitol in pursuit of funding of the new facility project “...is not a one and done”
The project has been on the Governor’s bonding list but House and Senate votes have not put it all the way through.
Schlumbohm explained the request for state aid requires somebody at the capitol, who knows the key players and keeps the request front and center for potential funding.
Chisago City Council member Jeremy Dresel explained the facility review and funding effort has taken years, and everybody went into this understanding the state appropriations take time. Setting this up just to watch it drop off the radar is “...a big change...do you understand what you’re impacting?” Dresel remarked.
He said the budget at this point is preliminary and can be adjusted downward around the end of the year if the case can’t be made to leave it in.
There was an hour or so of discussion on the future facility itself.
Chartrand and Norelius and new Lindstrom city administrator Dan Undem stressed that Lindstrom wants more time to see how it fits into the 10-year plan. Fiscal analysis is being done by Abdo, and is due to be submitted by August to Lindstrom Council.
Mayor Chartrand stressed this isn’t to be taken as “animosity” towards Chisago City— but the formula for paying for the new facility needs a second look. There is a lack of projection on costs for department operations, and no details about which city is responsible for providing what services for the new facility. The new site is in Chisago City by the fire hall on Karmel Avenue. It was selected because it was already publicly owned, has nearby sewer and water, and it is in the center of the two-city Lakes Area response territory. Consultants did square footage needs analysis and the commission looked at other law enforcement facility builds. A number of vacant buildings with potential for rehab were gone through, but none showed realistic potential.
The commission did not do long term operations cost projections for the Karmel Ave site.
Member Dresel pointed out that the budget for the project has already increased greatly due to inflation and nothing gets cheaper, shold this not stay on track.
Norelius went further with his concerns, stating the 50-50 contract is not fair to Lindstrom because Chisago City has more land mass to grow exponentially faster in the next few years. Lindstrom taxpayers will be bearing a larger per capita burden, he argued.
Chair Bob Gustafson, also Chisago City Mayor, stated it’s always been 50-50, and “We can’t do it alone.” The combined department has worked so well because the cities keep it simple, he added.
In the audience, Chisago City Administrator John Pechman commented that during several years that this new facility has been studied, “...we progressed on good faith with Lindstrom. Now it sounds like you don’t even think the (combined department) agreement is any good.”
Chartrand observed whether or not the new project moves ahead there are “stop gap” measures necessary to address current serious issues with LAPD office space. She wondered if Chisago City was prepared to contribute to a remodel, or helping with relocating Lindstrom city hall staff to a lease building, freeing up space to expand law enforcement functions in city hall. This would have to be a Chisago City Council discussion, they heard.
Administrator Undem commented that the analysis in context of Lindstrom’s 10 year plan isn’t going to require months and months. He said the city debt situation is being analyzed for end dates and what is coming on as new debt. Undem remarked, “It isn’t the worst thing to have a new set of eyes” on this.
The meeting ended with the commission fully supporting a motion by Dresel to do a $40,000 line item; that may or may not go towards a lobbyist or can be directed to immediate renovations to improve current workspace.
The city councils still look at the proposed budget and either incorporate the LAPD into their next year levy or negotiate with the commission for revisions.