LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie resident Ben Shimanski appeared before the city council Tuesday to share his concerns about the cost of police protection, and a number of residents showed up to hear about the subject.
Shimanski and other residents attended the city’s annual truth-in-taxation hearing in December to express concerns about tax increases.
Shimanski said he had never seen the city budget prior to that time, and he was surprised to learn that the police budget for 2019 is $375,370.
He said this led him to look at what other area cities are paying for police service.
He compiled a list of what he found, and asked to be placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
Shimanski said he talked to city administrators in several local cities and learned they contract with counties for law enforcement services rather than having their own police departments because it is cheaper and reduces liability for the city.
He said Lester Prairie has more patrol hours than Delano (which has a population of 6,059, compared to Lester Prairie’s 1,715).
Shimanski said the city administrators he talked to had received no complaints about residents feeling unsafe.
Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson prepared a written response to Shimanski’s assertions. This report was included in the council packet for the meeting, but it was not addressed during the meeting.
Shimanski said he can’t see how Lester Prairie can be paying so much when other cities are paying more.
“We shall look it over, I promise you that,” Angvall said. “I’ll keep you updated.”
Because Tuesday’s meeting was not a public hearing, the council did not solicit input from all those present. However, Angvall did accept brief comments from a few residents.
The council assured residents they will look into the matter.
At the end of the meeting, after most residents had left, the council returned to the police issue.
Councilor Ron Foust made reference to services that are provided by the police department that would not be provided if the city were to contract with the county.
Foust also noted that several cities Shimanski used for comparison do not have schools, which would add to the cost. He also indicated he was not surprised that city administrators would want to contract with counties for police services because this would allow them to take the work off their plate and let someone else deal with it.
However, Foust did express appreciation for the information Shimanski supplied.
“I commend Mr. Shimanski for his work. He made some good points,” Foust commented.
Councilor Tim Dahl noted Shimanski’s report did not include any comparisons to other cities that have their own police departments.
Angvall said the city could experience longer response times for calls if the city were to contract with the county.
“There was quite a group here. Don’t write it off,” cautioned Pawelk.
Angvall said the council will likely discuss the police information at the next meeting, which will take place Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.