Sheriff's deputies could begin policing the tiny Washington County city of Landfall in March after a decision to end a contract with Maplewood police.
"It's going to save money," said new Mayor Jim Dumer, who won a five-way race in November that included incumbent mayor Greg "Flash" Feldbrugge. The new mayor said he didn't want to revisit problems of the past and wants to move the city into a new era of cooperation with law enforcement.
Landfall, a mobile home park of about 700 residents sandwiched between Oakdale and Tanners Lake, will save about $5,000 a year by contracting with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Dumer said. The city also is shopping for fire protection because the current contract with Maplewood will end once police leave.
The City Council decided in December to move forward with the Sheriff's Office after a months-old dispute that included allegations by some city residents that Maplewood police were slow responding to calls and that drug problems had been ignored.
"At least verbally we received a whole plethora of complaints all at once, 99 percent of which we had never heard before," said Police Chief Dave Kvam. "It was a surprise and a slap to the face. Proportionately we've probably had more outreach in Landfall than in Maplewood. I think if anything we have provided very good service."
Three Landfall representatives, including Dumer, apologized to the Maplewood City Council on Dec. 10.
"On behalf of the city, we sincerely regret the escalation of a few disparaging remarks by a few residents to the point of which it has strained our relationship," said Ron Sanoski, a City Council member. "Those comments do not reflect the majority of our city and the attitude of the citizens of Landfall."
Maplewood Mayor Will Rossbach responded that no apology was necessary.
"Things get kind of rough-and-tumble from time to time," he said.
The tentative March launch depends on "a lot of infrastructure that has to be swapped around," including rerouting emergency calls that have been going to Ramsey County, Dumer said in a recent interview.
"We'll have a great relationship with the city of Landfall," said Sheriff Bill Hutton, who envisions adding a Landfall deputy to an existing patrol area that includes Lake Elmo. "We're getting to become more familiar with the call load and the types of crimes and service calls that are needed."
With Landfall, the Sheriff's Office will patrol 12 cities in Washington County that contract for services. The Sheriff's Office also patrols townships in the county. Several larger cities, such as Forest Lake, Oakdale, Stillwater, Woodbury and Cottage Grove, have their own police departments.
Hutton said he's had several conversations with Kvam and his predecessor, Dave Thomalla, about what to expect in Landfall. Most calls to police aren't of a criminal nature but "calls for service," such as lockouts, animal complaints and neighborhood disputes, he said.
Kvam said Maplewood's annual charge to Landfall of about $120,000 was a bargain to the city, because Landfall generated more police calls per capita than Maplewood. Had Maplewood charged accordingly, Landfall would have been billed about $147,000, he said.
Maplewood has been policing Landfall at least since 1993, Kvam said, when he joined the force. "We've really made great inroads," he said. Over the years fewer calls came to police, the severity of crimes lessened, and Maplewood police had good relations with residents, he said.
Patrolling the city was only part of the story, he said, because police started outreach programs such as a Christmas program, a fishing clinic and the Landfall Empowerment Coalition to work with youth.
"It's sort of insulting," he said of the change in contract. "It needn't happen, and it wasn't something that was on our horizon to change."
Five deputies, sometimes more, will work the patrol area that includes Landfall, Hutton said. Those deputies work around the clock, seven days a week, but in the event of a major crime or emergency other deputies will assist, he said.
The Maplewood City Council has approved month-by-month service to Landfall through July, Kvam said. Once the city's police service ends in Landfall, its fire protection will end as well, he said.
Fire Chief Steve Lukin said his department hasn't had many calls to the city over the years, but fires in mobile homes can be severe because of their construction and, in Landfall, their close proximity to one another.
In 2007, a family of three died in Landfall when a clothes dryer caught fire in their mobile home, trapping them in a back bedroom. A 6-year-old boy survived the fire, which was extinguished by the Maplewood department. Landfall contracts with Oakdale for medical emergencies.
Chuck Ahl, Maplewood's assistant city manager, said Maplewood won't fret over the canceled contracts. "We're just going to move on," he said. "Right now Landfall and Maplewood councils are talking and certainly amicable."
Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles