Jamin Anderson built a home in upscale Credit River Township, thinking he and his family had landed in peaceful semirural beauty.
Then the cops started showing up en masse next door.
“We’d see five squad cars and an ambulance and watch an individual led out in handcuffs at 9 in the morning,” he said.
It turned out that he and his wife and their twin 2-year-olds were living next door to a new group care home, and no one bothered to tell them.
“In the yard one day a supervisor introduced herself,” his wife Jayme told a public gathering on the subject last week. “And some information she shared didn’t put me at ease. It didn’t give me warm fuzzies.
“She was saying things like, ‘If you see our youth on your property, call the police immediately; they should not have contact with you or you with them.’ It was not comforting to a new neighbor. It was very kind of alarming.”
The township board is being praised for intervening to try and get information out, but neighbors on Southfork Drive are furious that no one warned them from the start what was going on, and that even now officials are being vague.
“The very idea that we do not have any right to know what is occurring in this home and to the level of potential problems and possibly threats to our children and grandchildren is unthinkable,” neighbor Doug Arneson wrote in a letter of protest.
The home is run by a firm called Rudolph Community and Care, and licensed for three developmentally disabled people under 24-hour care.
As a guardedly worded conversation spun out among county officials, one of the Rudolphs, neighbors and township leaders, there were hints that police and deputies without a whole lot to do at that moment may have converged en masse at times on a home in which disputes broke out beyond the ability of the staff to handle — and the whole scene may have looked more alarming from the outside than it really was.
“I can’t comment on police protocol or how many they send or want to send,” co-owner Michael Rudolph told the group.
The clients wouldn’t be in an unlocked home in a residential area if they were deemed a threat to people nearby, he said.
Neighbors should feel free to interact with occupants of the rented home just as anyone else, he said. He apologized for the lack of information in general and told Jayme Anderson:
“I apologize for your interaction with staff. She was maybe caught off-guard and trying to be overly informative.”
Anderson bristled. “She came up to me. I was caught off guard; she was not.”
Property owner Ray Joachim, who rents the home to the Rudolphs, apologized.
“I completely see where you’re coming from,” he told neighbors. “I’d be raising more hell than this if I were in your spot. I’m a rabble rouser. The previous tenants had six kids in a blended family and I actually thought this crowd would be quieter than that and things would be cool. It’s my fault for not educating and communicating. I’m learning this process myself to a degree.”
Scott County sent Suzanne Arntson, Human Services child welfare manager, and Gretchen Young, Health & Human Services licensing supervisor, to meet with the group.
They passed out written answers to questions, including “How do we know when there is a problem?” Answer: “Most information on individuals is classified as private and cannot be shared.”
Asked why residents could not have stopped the arrival of such a home, they said that a residential program with a capacity of six or fewer must be allowed in neighborhoods by state law and must be treated like any other single-family home so as to have “the benefits of normal residential surroundings.”
But the Andersons have observed that the parents of their baby sitters are ill at ease enough to turn up and watch over the safety of the teenage girls.
“That’s not a normal thing,” Jayme Anderson said. “It’s so frustrating. We don’t know why police were there — was it a minor disturbance, did they have medical problems? What if someone does something violent and hurts us? That’s too late for us.”
Township Board Chairman Brent Lawrence said he and his colleagues are in much the same position as the neighbors.
“We didn’t know much about it either. We have no control whatsoever. We felt there needed to be a forum for questions,” thus the public meeting. “There was an awful lot of concern, and we felt something needed to be done by way of communicating.”
Town Supervisor Tom Kraft said, “Often people don’t even realize a group home is there for years [there are dozens in the county]. I have seen squad cars at a neighbor’s house and it is always two or three, never one. I am not going to go up and say, ‘Why are the cops there.’
“It’s too bad it started off this way in a new home and it stumbled. Hopefully that gets cleaned up. I don’t think it’s a danger, but I’m not a neighbor there. I hope nothing happens.”