Give city of Nowthen credit for standing up to sheriff

The city of Nowthen deserves some credit for finding a solution to a demand that it either pay more for Anoka County sheriff patrol services or lose that service.

Fortunately the city and the sheriff reached an agreement for the sheriff to provide eight hours of daily patrol coverage at an additional cost of $106,011 this year and $213,014 the second year.  The sheriff also will continue to provide emergency service.

The council found the money by refinancing a public works bond and by the sheriff lowering his initial offer. Originally, the council had turned down the request for more money, because it would have required property taxpayers to pay on average an additional $200 in taxes.

Sheriff James Stuart’s original request for $248,000 for patrol services in October was significant, because the entire annual Nowthen budget is $1.1 million.

Throughout the discussion, the city was portrayed by the mass media as a small town unwilling to pay its fair share for police protection.

According to Anoka County officials, Nowthen property taxpayers paid $324,000 into the sheriff’s budget of $27,896,000 budget this year.

Add that amount to the new money, and Nowthen is paying $430,000 for responses to emergency calls, core services and eight hours of daily patrol coverage.

Stuart said he spends most of the nearly $28 million in his budget for core services and very little for patrol services.

The sheriff said he was hearing complaints from other cities with service contracts because they claimed they were subsidizing Nowthen for patrol services.

To his credit, Sheriff Stuart did lower his demand and agreed to start the service immediately rather than in July.

While some critics say the sheriff issued his demand in October, late in Nowthen’s budget cycle, Stuart said he first asked the city to pay for patrol services in March, and added that the sheriff has been asking Nowthen officials for a service contract since Nowthen became a city.

Now that the smoke has cleared, it’s obvious the city of Nowthen was misrepresented as a community unwilling to pay anything for protection from the sheriff’s office.    — Don Heinzman, ECM Publishers