Peterson hears from sheriff, learns of lease offer for school building
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 2:38 PM
At the March 8 Peterson City Council meeting, the council had two big items that were postponed from its February meeting.
Sheriff Tom Kaase addressed the Peterson City Council at its regular meeting on March 8. From left, councilor Jake Sandeno, clerk Chris Grindland, mayor Tim Hallum (far right) and councilor David Colbenson (back to camera) listened to his recommendation to set up a committee to research the city’s best options for policing in 2018. Not pictured are councilors Gail Boyum and Loren Rue.
The first of which was a response to the letter sent by the city of Rushford stating that as of Dec. 31, 2017, the city of Rushford Police Department will only respond to “officer needs assistance” calls in the city of Rushford Village and the city of Peterson.
Due to the limited scope of activity and service required by Minnesota state statute for the Sheriff’s Department, other Fillmore County municipalities have contracted additional services from the department, including patrolling for a set amount of hours on a daily basis.
Sheriff Tom Kaase was present at Peterson’s meeting to answer questions from the council. He was joined by Rushford police chief Adam Eide as well as Rushford’s city administrator Tony Chladek.
Kaase began by suggesting that the council form a committee to discuss the specific details of the contracts so that the committee would refer options for Peterson to pursue, going forward.
“I want to make sure the right information is out there,” said Kaase, noting that a committee would not consist of a quorum of the council; it would not fall under the standards of open meeting law that city councils are held to.
Due to the sensitive nature of policing contracts, Kaase provided answers to questions from the council without detailing specific options and contracts available to the cities of Peterson and CRV.
Mayor Tim Hallum noted that the city of Peterson has had six calls over two years that required a police response. Because of this, he wasn’t confident that the city would feel the need to pay for daily patrols.
Kaase said that a part of that understanding would also be to provide funds for deputies to be closer and more available in the need of a police response.
“(Other cities) may be contracting for two hours per day, but they get much more than that,” said Kaase.
He added that Peterson is nearly landlocked by the City of Rushford Village (CRV), so the two municipalities might desire to have a group discussion where they would share costs of a contract that would serve both municipalities.
“It’s tough, because we’ve been so small for so long,” said Hallum, who added that the current police budget for Peterson is merely $500.
“There’s a lot of things in life that we don’t want to pay for, but when you do, you’re glad you have them,” replied Kaase.
Without a contract, the Sheriff’s Department would be obligated to respond to felonies, but not obligated to more minor issues such as domestic disputes.
“If you’re looking at public safety, there may be a response… but it may not be to the satisfaction of your citizens,” said Kaase.
“But this is your county,” replied clerk Chris Grindland.
“That’s where it gets hard,” said Kaase. “To be fair in equability (to other contracted municipalities), we have to look at it like that.”
Kaase reminded council on many occasions during that evening’s discussions that due to the contracts they require from other municipalities, it would be difficult to justify negotiating a simple “as-needed” contract with the city of Peterson.
The council elected to have Hallum, councilor Gail Boyum, and Grindland on the committee to discuss negotiations with the Sheriff’s Department, and, if needed, the Rushford Police Department.
“We’ll negotiate it with our sheriff and bring it back to the city,” summarized Hallum. “It’s something that the city of Peterson has never seen before.”
“I’ll keep citizens informed via newsletters before the meetings,” added Grindland, responding the concern of citizen Desirae Halvorson, who asked the council to continue to be transparent with the citizens regarding this issue.
The committee intends to discuss this issue within the next month or two.
Peterson School discussion
When the referendum for a new school passed in 2015, the cities of Rushford and Peterson have asked themselves what to do with the current school buildings?
The R-P School District has only two months of school left in the current middle school building in Peterson, and superintendent Chuck Ehler presented a short-term option to the council at Monday’s meeting.
“We have had some ongoing communication about leasing our building,” explained Ehler. He informed the board that another educational agency is interested in a two-year lease to use the school’s facilities.
He emphasized that the negotiations have not been finalized, so he could not reveal the name of the interested party. Nor did he guarantee that these discussions would be finalized.
Ehler also emphasized that the option being pursued is a short-term fix, but, as of yet, no other entity has looked to purchase the building for a long-term endeavor.
A resident, who lives next to the school on Park Street, asked about maintenance of the school and parcels of land as well as liability for the students that would be present?
Ehler replied that the district would continue to maintain the facilities as part of the lease agreement. He believed that individual liability would remain with the city of Peterson.
Hallum asked what would happen to the current trophies and pictures at the school?
“We’re sensitive to the fact that every five years you have the all-school class reunion,” stated Ehler.
He added that, in the lease, the pictures and trophies would not be moved or interfered with. He also stated that the Friends of Peterson group, who is responsible for Peterson wide events such as Gammeldag, would retain the ability to utilize the school for those events and for community education events, like the open gym that is hosted each Sunday.
Boyum asked if the city would be able to keep some of the gym equipment such as volleyball nets and balls?
Ehler replied that the nets would be too difficult to move, but that the district “could work something out” in leaving the balls with the school.
The council gave a favorable response to Ehler’s proposition, but did not make any official motion.
Next meeting announced
The next regular meeting of the Peterson City Council will be at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, at Peterson City Hall, 118 Fillmore St.