After decades of dispute, Chaska and Carver County appear ready to reach agreement on a dramatic change to how county sheriff's deputies operate.
As of next month, deputies will no longer do any in-depth work or investigations in Carver County townships that don't contract with the sheriff's department and pay for those services.
The change, in the works for years, was finally agreed to by Sheriff Bud Olson as part of a settlement in a decades-old suit brought by the city of Chaska in 1987 over how deputies are deployed and who pays for their services around the county.
Under an agreement that will be presented to the Carver County Board and the Chaska City Council this month for their approval, deputies still would respond to emergency calls for service but would not do any follow-up investigation in eight Carver County townships: Dahlgren, San Francisco, Hancock, Benton, Camden, Hollywood, Young America Township and Waconia Township.
Olson said that around July 1, these townships would be given the option of contracting out for investigative services or providing their own police.
The dispute over what level of service the sheriff should provide was the key issue in the lawsuit between the county and Chaska, Olson and others said.
The city first complained because leaders felt Chaska, which has its own police force, was subsidizing police services for the rest of the county.
As part of a settlement the county reached with Chaska in the mid-1990s, the county paid the city a one-time reimbursement of more than $30,000. Also, the Sheriff's Office began contracting with cities and townships, such as in Chanhassen.
Left unresolved was what to do about townships that chose not contract with the sheriff.
In effect, Olson, who was elected in 1998, said they were still being subsidized by Chaska and the rest of the cities because they were receiving the same level of service but not paying as much.
In January, Olson tried to change that. He notified the eight non-contract townships that his department would not respond to nuisance or non-emergency calls in the townships, such as barking dogs or vandalism.
But Olson said that did not work, and the practice was abandoned after a few weeks because of the confusion it was causing among dispatchers and supervisors trying to determine if a deputy should respond to a call.
"It got too muddy. We had too many problems," said Olson, who is retiring as sheriff at the end of the year. "Somebody was going to get hurt. We're not going to sort calls for service that come in."
A compromise on follow-ups
In a series of meetings with township officials over the past year, Olson worked out a compromise with the townships under which deputies will respond to all calls initially, but will not conduct any follow-up investigations unless there is a service contract in place or the townships agree to pay extra for a particular investigation.
"This is what we've been working for for 12 years," Olson said last week. "The biggest changes will be that there will not be a lot of deputy follow-up and not as many deputies patrolling the townships."
Matt Podhradsky, the Chaska city manager, said he believes the city will agree to the compromise. He said the city's concerns are with the services the sheriff provides, such as jailing or process serving, rather than the emergency policing services that deputies provide.
"It's really a service issue," Podhradsky said. "Those things that go beyond the basic services need to be accounted for and go into a contract model."
Many of the city's concerns were resolved about 15 years ago when the Sheriff's Office began contracting its services with cities and townships.
"That really addressed a lot of our concerns," Podhradsky said. "This [new agreement] is really tweaking a system that's worked pretty well."
The proposal will go to City Council in about two weeks. Olson said the County Board will likely review the issue at its last meeting of the month.
"We want to make sure that there is equity," Podhradsky said. "Just because we have a police department, we want to make sure that our residents receive the same level of service."
Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280