What can be learned from Minnetrista’s new police facility?

Earlier this month, the City of Minnetrista (western Hennepin County, pop. 4,300) opened their new police facility. See the May 3 article in the Lakeshore Weekly News titled Police settle into new building:

Minnetrista PD The department left behind the 5,000 square feet it had worked in for the last 10 years and moved into 23,000 square feet of space designed to improve the department’s readiness and safety… The space was built to meet the needs of the department for the next 20 years. With a price tag of $9.1 million, including a public works garage and interest on bonds, it’s also expected to take 20 years to pay off.

The facility was built “after eight years of study and a significant amount of controversy.”

A vocal group calling itself Save Minnetrista set up a Web site, organized a petition and posted signs throughout the city to voice its opposition. The group asked for a referendum to determine whether the city should proceed with the project. They also questioned the timing of it during tough economic times.

The Save Minnetrista website says:

Save Minnetrista logo “Save Minnetrista” is a resident group that is concerned with the massive city spending project being pushed through City Hall – without citizen vote. During this economic crisis, now is not the right time for City Hall to raise your taxes so they can build a $7 to $10 Million dollar pet project.

It seems like there might be something to learn from what happened in Minnetrista, whether you support the current plan to construct a new police facility or would rather see the current Safety Center rehabbed as a police-only facility with a new fire facility built elsewhere.

See the City of Northfield’s Police & Fire Facilities Projects page for more.


  1. Tow suggestions right off the bat. First, spend some time teaching community leaders, neighborhood watchers, etc how to resolve conflict without heated and violent actions and how to prevent fires. Send out a few clearly defined flyers and a few teaching meetings iin schools and here and there. This will significantly reduce the number of calls police and fire persons make.

    In other words, let us not rely so heavily on government to work out our differences. Teach us how to bbq, store combustibles, and safely place and douse our camp fires. Teach us not to pollute at all,then you will solve a lot of issues.

    Second, fix the maintenance problems that plague the present safety building, and
    set up a satellite station elsewhere. Sooner or later, you’re gonna have to deal with precincts anyway. Might as well set it up now while you are in the change mode. If you don’t fix the present building, how will you sell it? What will it cost to dismantle it?

    Hope that helps,

    From the City of Northfield’s Police and Fire Facilities Projects page,

    “Northfield must move forward to address its growing public safety needs. We owe it to the public to plan for the future, and we owe it to the professionals and volunteers who staff our police and fire departments to provide facilities and equipment that will let them do their work safely and efficiently. This will require a substantial and long overdue investment, but the cost of doing nothing is much higher.”

    May 27, 2010
  2. Patrick Enders said:

    What we can learn is this: all big decisions will be controversial.

    May 27, 2010
  3. Curt Benson said:

    Yes, Patrick. And in Northfield, all small decisions will be controversial.

    May 27, 2010
  4. kiffi summa said:

    All decisions, both large and small will be controversial when the goal is to “sell” an idea instead of present the facts, and let the residents decide what they want .

    Beware the selling of an issue… here’s a possible problem: the city has hired a local publicist to write various brochures, press releases etc. In this case the ‘City’ means the Council and the EDA, for various tasks.i.e. brochures promoting the EDA, brochures ‘informing’ the public about the need for a new safety center, etc.

    The Council is restrained by law from advocating for an outcome on a referendum, I believe… (Somebody please correct me on the exact language; Jane Moline, do you know?)

    So does the publicist speak for the Council? Will the publicist speak for both ‘sides’ of the issue? From what funding source Is the publicist paid?
    This is not exactly the same structure of advocacy the School District uses when they have a “Vote Yes” committee to help pass a referendum.

    How do you think this should work?

    May 28, 2010
  5. john george said:

    Patrick & Curt- I think the idea of ANY municipality making changes in infrastructure as it grows without creating somem controversy is idealist at best, and probably unattainable in reality. I really don’t think Northfield has a monopoly on contention, although it sometimes gets tiresome hearing about it all the time. Here is an amusing video clip, one of hundreds available, which demonstrates that political disagreements are worldwide.


    June 1, 2010

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