Stewartville City Council leans toward adding more deputies

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(ABC 6 News) – The future of policing in Stewartville is up in the air. The city’s contract with the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office is coming to an end, and the sheriff’s office said if the city does not add two more deputies, there will be no contract at all.

The Stewartville City Council laid all its options on the table at a special meeting Thursday evening — weighing the burdens of public safety and the toll on taxpayers.

"Everybody at this table is a strong supporter of law enforcement. I want that known. The only reason this has gotten to where it has is because we thought as responsible stewards of your money, we should be looking at other options," Stewartville Mayor Jimmie-John King said at the meeting.

The Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office’s request to add two deputies to the city would mean a 40% increase in the city’s public safety budget over the next two years.

Council members said they wanted to explore all avenues for getting more police on their streets before re-signing with the county.

"We tried to weigh out everything. Is it possible to contract with a different jurisdiction? Do we seriously look at our own department?" Bill Schimmel, the Stewartville city administrator said.

All council members agreed they are leaning towards re-signing with the sheriff’s department because that will likely be the least expensive option for taxpayers.

"We will probably find out nothing is better than them. Nothing is cheaper than them. We’re probably getting all the bang for our buck we can get," Mayor King said.

The plan, for now, is to increase the budget by 20% next year and then add the other 20% the year after to reach the agreed-upon 40% increase but lighten the load for the taxpayers.

"If I was told in six years, there was going to be a 40% increase, you better believe the money would have been there. So we’re just trying to still make it work the best for protection and for taxpayers," Mayor King said.

The next step is for the city to go back to the sheriff’s office with its proposed plan and negotiate from there.

Council members plan on making a decision by Sept. 14 when they have their next council meeting.

The city council also spoke Thursday about making plans to someday form their own Stewartville police department. They said as the city grows, the need will soon be there for a full-time department of their own.

For now, the council said it’s just looking into what the city will need when that day comes.