The Ostrander City Council met on March 7 with all council members present (Erin Volkart, Pam Kunert, Mayor Pat Nesler, Clerk Chris Hyrkas, Heidi Jones, and DJ Start). The bulk of the meeting was spent on the topic of how to replace Police Chief Tom Mosher when he retires later this year. Essentially, the city appears to have two options: hire an individual officer to work as Chief Mosher has done, or contract with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s office for law enforcement, as several other local cities do.
Sheriff Tom Kaase addressed the board with general information about how his officers could provide law enforcement services, if Ostrander chooses to contract with his office. He and Chief Mosher discussed some of the pros and cons of each option. Sheriff Kaase said his office currently contracts for services with several small towns, including Spring Valley, Mabel, Harmony, Canton, and Wykoff. Council members said for decades, Ostrander has enjoyed having one officer serve the city, so that citizens know who they’ll be dealing with. Kaase explained that the sheriff’s office would have a few main officers that would serve Ostrander, so “the faces would be familiar, they’re already familiar… we still strive for that personal connection.”
Kaase also pointed out that if Ostrander chooses to replace Chief Mosher with another individual, there is always the probability that a young officer may take the job but then move on, resulting in a “revolving door” situation for the city. He also stressed that any individual officer cannot provide 24-hour service seven days a week. He added that Ostrander would likely see a financial savings if contracting with the sheriff’s office. Chief Mosher pointed out to the council that there would likely be a few things he’s done for the city that the sheriff’s staff simply wouldn’t do, such as helping with snow removal.
Chief Mosher shared that positions like his are a dying breed, adding, “When I started here eight years ago, there were only three police departments in the state of Minnesota that have just a part-time officer. Two of them are Fountain and Ostrander.” Sheriff Kaase suggested setting up a small group of council members and others to meet with him to discuss the option in more detail. The council agreed to this idea, and will have two council members, Chief Mosher and Chris Hyrkas meet with Sheriff Kaase. Council members are asked to submit a list of questions/concerns to Hyrkas or Mosher. The meeting time has not yet been set. Sheriff Kaase said he’s sorry to see Chief Mosher retiring, but added, “I’m happy for the opportunity and excited about it.”
Dustin Tart asked the council to consider allowing him to buy an impact wrench for his work. After brief discussion, this was approved. The council discussed buying light pole banners at a cost of around $100 each. More information will be gathered. City wide cleanup was set for May 6. The city also discussed possibly having another city wide cleanup in the fall. Chief Mosher spoke in favor of that, saying it really helps citizens get rid of junk, which benefits him in his duties and helps beautify the city.
The council discussed the contract with Waste Management for the city’s garbage services. The contract was automatically renewed for five years, through April of 2022. Council members agreed to send a letter to Waste Management to avoid automatically renewing again, since the city is interested in checking for other options. Hyrkas also will request a current copy of Waste Management’s pricing structure.
The council discussed writing an ordinance to limit the number of automobiles that a residential property can have. Chief Mosher said he had checked around to see if another city has such an ordinance, but he couldn’t find anything like what Ostrander is considering. He said there are ordinances regarding vehicles needing to be operable and currently licensed, and ordinances about where and how vehicles can be parked or stored. Hyrkas will talk with other city’s clerks to see if she can find out how some other cities have dealt with this issue.
Police Chief Tom Mosher summarized February’s police activity report, stating that it was a quiet month overall. He said he’s working on checking for expired license tabs on vehicles, and has found 17 so far. He expects to have around 20 to 25 by the time he’s done. The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, April 4, at 6 p.m. The public is welcome.