Watertown City Council approves communication plan with Sheriff’s Office

The Watertown City Council approved a new communication plan with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office last week in an effort to improve the information sharing process between the city and its contracted law enforcement partner.

The communication plan was put together during several meetings between city administrator Luke Fischer and leaders in the Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Jim Olson. The Watertown City Council had requested that a plan be put together after several incidents in recent years that the council felt the city should have been made aware of sooner.

The first incident was in 2011, when a Watertown woman sustained fatal injuries when she was struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk on Territorial Street. The second incident was this past January, when the city council was disappointed the city was not made aware of the arrest of a felon in Watertown Township who was allegedly in possession of 13 guns and a note that referenced how often he thinks about killing. The city learned of that arrest via a television news report.

Sheriff’s Office Commander of Operations Paul Tschida visited the city council during its Feb. 26 meeting to present the plan, which includes six guidelines that would trigger notification of Watertown officials. Under the plan, Fischer would receive notification whenever:

• A media request is made of the Sheriff’s Office for information regarding events occurring in Watertown.

• A city facility is used as a staging area by law enforcement for a local operation.

• The Sheriff’s Office determines an event to be a major event, such as a suicide, major injury car crash or significant house fire.

• There is a significant weapons violation in the city such as a shot fired or a knife fight.

• There is an incident involving city equipment, such as a crash or vehicle theft.

• A pertinent personnel matter arises and the information would not violate date privacy laws.

In addition to those six guidelines, it will be the duty of Watertown’s Town Cop, Troy Carlson, to check the logs of things happening in the city and the surrounding area and keep the city administrator informed of significant events or trends.

“That part has been happening already,” Tschida told the council. “He generally does check that log and gets ahold of Mr. Fischer and keeps him informed of things that are happening.”

Tschida added that it was important to the Sheriff’s Office to maintain and continue to develop its relationship with Watertown, and both Fischer and Councilor Mike Walters noted their satisfaction with the way the whole situation was handled by the Sheriff’s Office.

“The subsequent discussions we’ve had since the initial flashpoint where we had some concerns as a community have been very productive and very positive, and that’s thanks in large part to Commander Tschida and Sheriff Olson,” Fischer said. “They were willing to engage in a tough discussion. I think at the end of the day, we have a really strong plan that’s a good guide for us into the future.”

In other business:

• The City Council approved the 2013 Sanitary Sewer Maintenance Plan, which has gone from three pages to 44. The plan is designed to spell out standards for maintaining and cleaning the system to prevent backups. Utilities Superintendent Doug Kammerer presented the plan to the council, and noted that it was important to educate the public on what can be flushed down the drain, and what can not.

“A general rule is if you can’t eat it, don’t flush it,” Kammerer said.

Kammerer said items that have been found in the system recently include razors, underwear, t-shirts, toys, coins, neck ties, paper towels, diapers, baby wipes, PVC piping and lumber. Kammerer said all of these things can clog pipes and cause backups, and noted that paper towels are one of the most frequent problems because people don’t realize how long it takes the towels to biodegrade.

Kammerer also noted that grease is a common problem because people wash it down the drain when it is hot and in liquid form. However, once it cools, it solidifies and can frequently clog the system.

“Education is what I’m going to push for,” Kammerer said. “Hopefully we can educate the public on what to feed the sewer – what to put in the sewer and what not to put in the sewer.”

• The council approved the request for funding from three community groups. Watertown-Mayer Community Education, the Watertown Area Historical Society and the Watertown Area Fine Arts Council were awarded $2,200 each.

The city is using a new process this year in which organizations must submit their funding request at the start of the year so that the city can budget appropriately. In past years, requests for funding made in the middle of the year have not been able to be funded even though the requests may have qualified for or deserved city funds.

This year, $8,000 was budgeted for funding community organizations, and there were $8,500 in requests. The council decide to allocate an equal amount to each of the three groups that requested funding for a total of $6,600. The council wanted to leave $1,400 in case additional requests are made or in case additional funding is required for this summer’s Rails to Trails Festival.

• The council expressed gratitude to the local post of the American Legion, which once again donated several flags to the city to be displayed in the downtown area.

Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]