Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Lester Prairie police chief responds to criticism about response speed

Aug. 19, 2009

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – During Tuesday’s Lester Prairie City Council Meeting, Mayor Andy Heimerl told the council that some city residents have expressed concern about emergency vehicles driving “too fast” through town.

Heimerl said this was a just a reminder for emergency services to pay attention to what is going on.

The complaints apparently arose from an Aug. 5 incident in which Lester Prairie police officer Mark Thiry responded to a 911 call and was threatened by a suspect with a knife and an axe, and called for backup (see the story on page XX of this issue).

Heimerl said residents reported that officers from the McLeod County Sheriff’s office and the Minnesota State Patrol drove “too fast” through town when they responded to Thiry’s call for backup.

Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson, who was at the meeting, responded to the comments.

“We are trained in emergency vehicle response,” Carlson said, adding that driving at high speeds and keeping their vehicles under control is part of the training for law enforcement officers.

“We go through a field training officer program,” Carlson continued. “In that program, you work with an experienced officer who has had to drive fast in those situations. You are also trained in how to drive in your particular town. It’s not like just going to St. Cloud and taking a class. (This was a reference to the Minnesota Highway Safety Center in St. Cloud where officers take emergency vehicle training).”

“Officer Thiry had to decide whether or not to use deadly force,” Carlson said, regarding the Aug. 5 incident. “There was a guy threatening him with an axe. If that was my family involved, I would want those officers to go fast.”

Heimerl said he works by the highway (McLeod County Road 9) and sometimes, he doesn’t hear the siren for emergency vehicles until they have already gone by. “That shouldn’t happen,” Heimerl said.

Carlson and Heimerl agreed that officers do not need to respond at high speed to all calls for service, and that discretion should be used.

Carlson said any resident who has legitimate concerns about officers from the State Patrol or the McLeod County Sheriff’s office, or his own department should talk to the officer’s supervisor so the concerns can be addressed. “Otherwise it is not due process,” Carlson said. “A lot of times they (the people who are complaining) don’t know the whole story. They don’t even know what kind of call the officer was responding to.”

Yard waste budget cut

City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said she and maintenance supervisor Greg Mueller attended a municipal yard waste meeting July 29 in Glencoe.

Pawelk said McLeod County Solid Waste Director Ed Homan told the city representatives in attendance that the county board has asked all county department heads to cut their budgets by 5.5 percent.

As a result, education, promotion and site maintenance will be cut.

Lester Prairie’s funding was cut from $4,350 to $3,600, a reduction of $750 or 17.24 percent.

Any additional costs will be the city’s expense, and will not be reimbursed.

In addition to the funding cuts, the city’s site will be cleaned out less often, as well.

Pawelk said in the past, the site was cleaned out as needed.

During the meeting, they were told that the site will now only be cleaned out twice per year.

Doug Johnson of Creekside inspected Lester Prairie’s site after the meeting, and Mueller said the county is now proposing to come and process the compost only once per year in November.

Pawelk said if the cities choose to offer Christmas tree disposal for residents, the trees will remain in the compost site until the following November.

Sanitation rate change approved

The council approved increasing the charge for a 35-gallon garbage cart from $8.75 to $9 per month, effective Tuesday, Sept. 1. The charge for a 64-gallon cart will remain at $9.80 per month, and the charge for a 96-gallon cart will remain at $10.30 per month.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved a quote from Litzau Excavating for repair of a storm sewer outlet at the intersection of Birch Street and Madison Avenue at a cost of $1,450.

• approved a request from the Dodge House for a bean bag tournament Saturday, Sept. 26, which includes closure of a portion of Juniper Street during the event, and authorizes the bar to sell alcohol outside the premises in a designated area.


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