Landfall City Council votes to ditch Maplewood police

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2012 - 5:48 PM

The city of 700 residents will turn to Washington County for its police protection.

A survey sent out by the city of Landfall got more than 100 responses and showed that a majority of citizens wanted to keep getting police protection from Maplewood.

A competing survey conducted by a City Council member found the opposite, that residents in the Washington County community of 700 wanted a change.

Last week, the Landfall City Council went with the latter and voted to fire Maplewood and get services elsewhere, most likely from the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Support for the controversial measure put forth by council member Ron Sanoski was less than unanimous as two council members abstained from voting. It passed 3-0.

The lack of unity among council members mirrors feelings in the community, which consists of manufactured homes, and where Maplewood has provided police services for the past 19 years. More than 30 people attended the meeting .

"People just got angry for going against what they voted for," said Chad Peterson, a 25-year resident of Landfall, which he calls "the safest place to live in Minnesota."

Sanoski said the city is in talks with Washington County to get police service. He said Landfall wants to change because Maplewood was too slow in responding to calls, that drug issues have been ignored, there was a general lack of police presence, and that a recent complaint against a Maplewood officer was disregarded.

"There are other issues that we can't speak of now that hinder police protection," Sanoski said.

Maplewood Police Chief David Thomalla said his department was unaware of Landfall's concerns and was never given a chance to investigate or work on them.

"They came to us and said we are switching to Washington County," said Thomalla, whose department last year responded to 400 calls in Landfall and put on community events that included a fishing clinic and Christmas party. "We've had a great relationship with the people there. We will miss that the most."

Landfall hopes to have a contract with the county in place by July 1. That might take longer as the contract with Maplewood requires a 180-day termination notice. Landfall pays Maplewood about $119,400 annually. It would be "a bit cheaper" to contract with the county, Sanoski said.

If Landfall cancels its police contract, Maplewood City Manager Jim Antonen said he will recommend that the Maplewood City Council terminate its fire protection contract with Landfall. He said Maplewood has concerns about firefighters working in Landfall without adequate police protection.

"If they cry and say we are seeking revenge, they initiated the action," Antonen said.

Sanoski said Landfall would consider asking Oakdale to provide fire service if that happens.

Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said Landfall officials approached his office about a month ago.

"I was not soliciting business to be its law enforcement provider," he said. "We will have additional talks and start putting a contract together."

The vote came after a city survey sent to 300 residents drew 100 responses. The results showed about 60 percent favored keeping Maplewood, 11 percent wanted change and the rest had no opinion. Sanoski did his own survey and said that of the 75 people he talked to, about 60 wanted to drop Maplewood, while 10 didn't want to switch and five didn't care.

"We are elected to make decisions," Sanoski said. "I want to let people know we did our job and feel that we did the best for Landfall and the city as a whole, not a select few."

Staff writer Kevin Giles contributed to this report Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039

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