“The meeting started with a kerplunk; well, abruptly. The City of Rushford will no longer provide police services to the City of Rushford Village or the City of Peterson,” said Rushford Village Mayor Gordon Johnson, at the Tuesday, February 7 council meeting. “I’m disappointed in the way it came about.”
The City of Rushford requested a meeting last month, which was held January 25. Present were Village Mayor Johnson and Councilor Dennis Overland, Peterson Councilor Gail Boyum, Rushford Mayor Chris Hallum, Councilor Jim O’Donnell, City Administrator Tony Chladek, Police Chief Adam Eide, and Fillmore County Sheriff Tom Kaase.
“The dialogue was not always positive,” added Johnson. “I was a little defensive in nature. But, it was a good discussion.”
The mutual aid contract was drafted by the City of Rushford and presented to the Village in previous years. The Village had reimbursed the City of Rushford directly for hourly man and equipment costs. This equated to just over $960 in 2016 and was based on $41 per hour, a number Johnson noted was set by the City of Rushford.
During the joint meeting, Johnson stated he was specific in asking what the duties from the county to the Village would be in a mutual aid contract. “Where do we fall in that mix?” asked Johnson to the council. He indicated that Sheriff Tom Kaase cited Minnesota State statute 387.03, related to duties and powers of a sheriff. Among specific duties related to physical work of the position, it states, “The sheriff shall keep and preserve the peace of the county, for which purpose the sheriff may require the aid of such persons or power of the county as the sheriff deems necessary.”
Johnson said there was a comment during the joint meeting that the Village is being treated differently than cities within the county. The City of Rushford Village has no downtown district, but is rural in nature with several residential subdivisions, and thereby functions similarly to a township.
Cities within the county that contract with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office see a minimum of two hours per day of police protection police protection 365 days a year, plus emergency calls. Financially, this equates to $24,000 per year or $32.89 per hour, according to Johnson. “We need to have a discussion with Sheriff Kaase again,” said Johnson. “We really haven’t asked for anything. I don’t see that we’re having issues. Are we put in a position that we have to have an agreement with the Sheriff?”
“We need to decide what we do want,” added Councilor Dennis Overland.
The city will schedule another meeting with the sheriff to better determine needs. In the meantime, calls that come from Rushford Village residents and businesses will go directly to the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office. According to Johnson, if there is no deputy in the area, the county can contact local law enforcement (in this case, the City of Rushford) and request assistance. The county would then reimburse the City of Rushford.
“They’re not going to turn a blind eye,” noted City Attorney Tom Manion.
In other news, with the election of Mike Ebner to the Council effective this past January, the City of Rushford Village has looked to find a replacement for Ebner’s former seat on the Zoning Board. Three names were given to Zoning Administrator Jon Pettit, but only one was willing to serve. Former Councilor Todd Baker has stepped up and the council approved his appointment at the meeting.
“We want to have someone who is involved,” said Mayor Gordon Johnson. “Maybe we should give him a chance.” Baker’s appointment was approved in a unanimously by three votes. Councilors Chad Rasmussen and Rich Smith were absent.
A few items related to Roads were brought forth by Public Works Supervisor Travis Scheck. A new hydrology report for Benson Lane is complete and the city is waiting for an update from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was noted that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) may not be favoring replacement of a “Missouri Crossing” with a bridge. Rather, a bigger box culvert may be involved in plans to rectify water and road issues. FEMA is apparently questioning the DNR stance on the issue and both will need to approve plans to address the area.
Main Street in south Rushford, which saw a massive road project this past summer, is already showing signs of new failure in the way of large cracks. “It’s cracked all the way up. It’s wide,” said Councilor Dennis Overland. Main Street was overlaid, rather than reconstructed, per engineer’s recommendations. The city will look to see if a maintenance contract of any kind is in place before determining next steps.
The city approved a siren maintenance proposal from the City of Rushford. The siren utilized by the Village is located in Creekside Park and it has had problems. The maintenance contract costs $55 per month and includes on site reviews following the storm season, general maintenance, not including the motor, and service from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mayor Johnson sought input on the matter from Overland, who serves as a volunteer firefighter and with Emergency Medical Services, and Ebner, who previously served as the City of Rushford’s fire chief. They did not feel that another siren was needed, but did agree the maintenance contract was good decision.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Tuesday, February 21, at 7 p.m., at the Village Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.