Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 20, 2003

LP council debates moving police dept. to city hall

By Julie Yurek

Possibly moving the police department was one of two lengthy discussions that highlighted the Lester Prairie City Council meeting last Monday night.

With no new members joining the council, the group jumped right into business after oath of offices were taken by Michele Anderson, Larry Hoof, Rollie Bruckschen, and Mayor Eric Angvall.

Council members discussed at length moving the police department into city hall, as well as a lengthy discussion about if the city should stop using the services of PeopleService at the wastewater treatment plant, with the city taking over operations.

Both issues were discussion only; no action was taken on either one.

As a way to save money with the budget cuts raining down from the state, the Lester Prairie Police Department could move into city hall, Angvall said.

The council talked about the option 12 years ago, he said.

The benefits of incorporating the police department would include spending less on maintenance, because it would be for one building instead of two, it would utilize city hall more, and the city would only pay on one building instead of two, Angvall said.

"It's like they say, 'cut back on services, just don't raise my taxes,'" Angvall said.

Angvall's idea met a mixed reaction with council members, who were skeptical the idea would work.

"Will the building sell? What about the organizations that use this building (city hall)? How much will it cost to improve or remodel this building?" Bruckschen asked.

The city could possibly get $30,000 for the police department building, Angvall said.

Bruckschen addressed the restroom issue. If the police department is in city hall, a separate bathroom would need to be installed, because the current bathrooms are public, he said.

"If the police have somebody in handcuffs, they can't be going into the same bathroom as kids," Hoof said.

Prisoners are taken to Glencoe, Angvall replied.

If there's even a possibility of someone being questioned with cuffs on, those bathrooms have to be private, Hoof said. "They (the state) will never allow prisoners use the bathroom with the general public."

Angvall also noted that City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk needs additional storage and work space.

"She needs more room for the computer system and for files," he said.

Pawelk is unable to store all her files at city hall, she said. Some files from previous years are at another location.

"I'm just trying to utilize city resources," Angvall said.

There would be more room in the joint-use facility, Bruckschen said.

As for the public using city hall for functions, there are other facilities available, such as churches and the fire hall, and a community center would also have rooms available, Angvall said.

Not much revenue is brought in by renting out city hall, Pawelk said. "Ninety percent of the people that rent here do not pay."

"If we took away the building for the public to use, we would drive people away," Hoof said. "We would have to ask, does the public want a community center or business offices?"

"If the city has all these buildings, the public may not want a community center," Angvall said.

"I think we should keep the police department where it's at," said council member Ron Foust.

Bruckschen agreed with Foust, he said.

Pawelk suggested Angvall talk with Police Chief Bob Carlson to see where he stands on issue.

The discussion ended with Anderson requesting more information about how much the police department building is worth and the bathroom issue.

The second issue to discuss was operation of the wastewater treatment plant.

"Does it make sense for PeopleService to run the plant, or should we look at what it would cost for the city to run it?" Angvall asked the council.

"It would cost the city a lot of money for it to pay on its own," Hoof said.

"At some point though, it would make sense for us to take it back over. PeopleService is getting very expensive," Angvall said.

"We're still cheaper with PeopleService," Hoof said.

Right now Lester Prairie pays a fee to PeopleService, just like the other cities it services, Hoof explained.

The fee is much cheaper than paying a salary for a city employee to run the plant, he said.

"We had to go to PeopleService because we couldn't pay the plant manager enough and he left," Hoof said.

Bruckschen felt that the city would be a training ground if it ran the treatment plant on its own, he said.

"We aren't paying near what we would pay if we ran it ourselves," Hoof said.

"We don't know that," Angvall said.

In closing the discussion, Pawelk reminded the council that it had until summer to debate the issue.

Fire dept. receives FEMA grant money

Lester Prairie Fire Chief Jim Hoof announced to the council that the fire department received a $33,450 federal grant from Federal Emergency Management Agencey (FEMA).

A 10 percent matching grant from the City of Lester Prairie added about $3,800 to the FEMA money.

The department will purchase 24 turnouts (uniform/gear), 30 boots, 24 helmets, 30 gloves, and six pass devices used to locate firefighters, Hoof said.

The department will have new equipment for everyone with the new purchases, and some of the old equipment will be kept, he said.

The rest will be given to charity, Hoof added.

"Good job. You put in a lot of hours," Angvall said.

"Getting the grant made it worthwhile," Hoof replied.

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