The city of Forest Lake has now received the proposal for public safety services that we requested from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The proposal is very detailed and thorough. I want to personally thank the sheriff and his entire staff for the work they did to prepare the information.
Their proposal gives our community the opportunity have a real discussion about what we all believe will be the best way to keep Forest Lake safe. We need to be open to looking at the best way to deal with the most important thing government does: keep people safe and secure in a community. Is there a different or better way to deliver this service? Can we do more in a way that is also more responsible to everyone who pays taxes in Forest Lake?
The Washington County proposal would increase the amount of patrols in our community, coming from sheriff deputies stationed here full-time to make sure call times are the same or better than what we have now. This higher level of service would also be done at a cost that is significantly less than what we are currently spending. We need to keep people safe in Forest Lake, but we also need to make sure we are managing the budget. The proposal gives us a way to look at both of these issues.
At an even higher level, I truly believe we as a community need to look at both what our police department’s approach is to public safety and compare it to what the county could provide. At no time would I ever consider reducing the level of policing we have or sacrifice response times to save money. I consider my role as mayor very important, and I assure you that helping Forest Lake grow and prosper are as important as making sure that this continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family.
This is an important yet emotional issue and conversation for Forest Lake. I understand this process could bring about a change for our city. I also understand and respect that different people can and will have different points of view or opinions as to what they think is better for our community. However, there should not be differences when it comes to the facts and specific details that we as a community need to review and consider.
We now have the proposal from Washington County and its details to review. I am committed to moving forward with an open house and a thorough and accountable process to allow everyone time to review information and give feedback to the council. This will then be followed by a discussion by the council and a decision as to how we move forward.
Forest Lake is a special community, and I believe we can come together to work through this process to find the best way to keep our community safe today and long into the future.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions, comments or concerns.
Ben Winnick is the mayor of Forest Lake.