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Debate begins on Rushford police protection

Fri, Mar 16th, 2007
Posted in Government

RUSHFORD - Police protection has been a hot topic recently with both the city of Rushford and the city of Rushford Village; on March 12 the Rushford City Council discussed the issue at their regular council meeting. Emails and letters have gone back and forth between the two mayors concerning the issue following a letter from Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen. In the letter, Jensen had urged the two entities to meet and come to an agreement.

Rushford Village Mayor Gordon Johnson had emailed the city of Rushford suggesting a Tri-City meeting format to discuss the matter. Such a format would include the city of Peterson as well.

Rushford Mayor Les Ladewig responded with a letter offering three options for meeting: one, a meeting of Rushford Village, Rushford, and Sheriff Jensen; two, a Tri-City meeting at which a quorum of all councils would be required so action could be taken; or three, sponsor a joint public hearing (Rushford and Rushford Village) dedicated to law enforcement.

Johnson responded on the behalf of the Village that they had decided to first determine the needs and expectations of their citizens. The Village plans on informing their citizens about the police protection issue and then holding a meeting with Jensen and Rushford Village citizens in the fall to discuss the issue. Because of these plans, the Village sees no need to meet with the city of Rushford about police. In his response, Johnson had noted the Village sees no need for a quorum at Tri-City meetings because they don't see the meetings as "decision-making events."

Currently, there is a police contract dated May 6, 2003 in place; according to that contract anytime a dispatcher from the Sheriff's department calls with a 911 call in the village, the Rushford police will respond. For such service the Village pays $1,000 a year. Either party can terminate the agreement.

At the city of Rushford council meeting, council member Larry Johnson suggested discontinuing police service to the village and instead charging them for police service by the hour. Johnson later mentioned the possibility of using the same formula the fire department does to determine charges.

When council member Laura Deering asked if the issue was the money or coverage, city administrator Windy Block answered that $1,000 was "not realistic, not even close to the cost."

Ladewig declared the police contract was not intended to be a moneymaking scheme, but the cities need a "fair, equitable contract." Council member Herb Highum added that certainly expenses have gone up since 2003.

Deering asked if Block could put together some information to help them find a fair rate for the protection. Apparently, Sheriff Jensen had mentioned a minimum $2,500 coverage, which would amount to one hour a week for a year from the Sheriff's Department. Block opined that the Village currently enjoyed the same police protection Rushford has-twenty-two hours a week-and estimated such coverage to be worth $100,000. The three cities of Canton, Mabel, and Harmony each pay $40,000 to $45,000 for about eleven hours a day coverage.

Ladewig felt the citizens of the Village needed to understand that if the current contract was terminated and no new contract was in place, the police protection for the Village would come from Preston with people waiting until the Fillmore County Sheriff's Department arrived.

City staff was directed to research similar size cities and report on current police service costs to the council.

Other business

In other business the council:

• acknowledged with gratitude the donation by Fred Carlson Co. of 13 hours snow removal during the recent snowstorms (roughly $1,000 savings for the city budget);

• approved a resolution showing the council had no objection to Valley Crest Riders getting a class B gambling license to be used at Stumpy's;

• directed staff to begin the process to move JOBZ status to the TRW properties so "Riverbend" could apply for the benefits;

• agreed to the purchase and installation of five Purifan ventilation units to improve air quality at the liquor store for a total cost of $3,357.79;

• commended manager Dianne Jonsgaard on her efficient and profitable operation of the Rushford Municipal Liquor Store;

• approved the expenditure of $1,725 for seeds, herbicide, and planting of prairie grasses/flowers around the Hwy. 43 Rushford sign. City staff will take care of mowing and burning the prairie to obtain maximum flowering as well as moving the stone sign to a more visible location. The council considers this a trial and may consider similar plantings elsewhere on city property if it is well received, thus saving mowing costs.

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