Driving offenses are down while theft investigations are up a little when compared to six years ago. But all in all, Rushford Police Chief Adam Eide feels folks in Rushford are behaving themselves pretty well.

Eide reviewed the January and February police activity report with the Rushford City Council on Monday, March 13.

He spent about 30 minutes going over the report, comparing the various incident categories from the past 16 years and fielding questions from council members.

Eide noted that his department has investigated five theft reports so far in 2017, which pretty much jives with the 32 investigations in 2016, 31 investigations in 2015 and 29 in 2014. That compares with an average of about 11 theft investigations per year from 2009 through 2013.

“Theft investigations go in spurts,” Eide explained. “If you look through the past 16 years, it goes up and down. It might be a certain person or persons who are active, and then we apprehend them, and we don’t receive as many calls for a while.”

As far as a drop in driving offenses, Eide attributed that partially to the fact that persons driving with expired license plate tabs are now issued a written warning and not a ticket.

One area that has seen a drastic increase is social media harassment investigations. From 2010 to 2014, the local police department averaged six investigations per year. In 2015, that number jumped to 33 and another 33 investigations of harassment/terroristic threats were conducted last year.

“That’s jumped so much because of all the social media outlets people are using,” Eide said. “We are getting so many more calls because of the drastically increased use of social media.”

Permits to purchase firearms jumped from 14 in 2015 to 24 in 2016. Eide felt that was caused because persons were concerned about the presidential election — who might have been elected president, and if some of the gun owner rights would have been restricted.

“There were people who were concerned about this. It (the election) didn’t turn out that way, but there were some people who wanted to get these purchases registered, just in case,” Eide stated.

Councilor Vern Bunke said he was concerned with the way the American public views law enforcement. While he realized the major issues have occurred in the larger cities, he asked if there were things the local police department was doing to foster good rapport with Rushford residents?

Eide replied that he and his staff are trying to project to the citizens that, “We are people just like everyone else. I’ve encouraged my staff to be as active in the community as possible. We want everyone to feel comfortable with us.”

Councilor Terri Benson said she has been impressed with the way the Rushford Police Department works with the citizens and appreciates whatever outreach the officers can do in the community.

Eide was asked if any progress had been made with the development of new law enforcement contracts with Rushford Village and the city of Peterson.

He said that himself, Fillmore County Sheriff Tom Kaase and Rushford city administrator Tony Chladek met with representatives of Peterson to discuss the matter.

“I think we’ve got the ball rolling in the right direction with Peterson,” Eide said. “Everyone agrees that we have to have an equitable situation for everyone. We’re working with Peterson and hopefully, we will be able to do the same with Rushford Village.”

Chamber talks signage

Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber of Commerce director Jen Hengel provided the council with a number of updates.

Progress on the new “wayfinding” signage program, which the chamber is partnering with the Rushford EDA and the Rushford Foundation, is being made.

Hengel has been meeting with representatives of MnDOT and lining up various locations throughout the city to have the informational signage installed.

The signs will be large, many being nearly six feet wide by two feet tall. They will have a blue background and six-inch tall white lettering so they will be readable from a passing vehicle.

The signs will direct visitors to the state trail, tourist information center, Creekside Park, Creek Trail, the new R-P school campus, Magelssen Scenic Overlook and hiking trail and the canoe launch on the Root River as well as other attractions.

Hengel noted this is a work in progress. While she was hoping to have the signs up in place by this spring, it might take a bit longer to get everything finalized with MnDOT.

Rushford hosting events

Hengel also told the council about two events slated for this summer that will bring scores of outdoor enthusiasts to the Rushford valley.

The first is the Root River Bluff and Valley Bicycle Tour, which will be held July 7 to 9. Bicyclists will be peddling around Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties, up to 70 miles per day.

The large contingency will be staying in Rushford the first night, Preston the second and returning to Peterson the third day.

Hengel will be working with a number of different service groups and business in Rushford to offer various amenities for the bikers. More information on this event can be found on the chamber’s website.

The second event is the Great River Rumble, which is a 92-mile canoe/kayak trek from Rushford (on the Root River) to Prairie du Chien, Wis., (on the Mississippi River). The trek will begin at Rushford on July 29 and end of the following Saturday in Prairie du Chien.

The chamber will once again be enlisting service groups and local businesses to provide for certain meals and entertainment on Saturday, July 29.

For both events, Hengel requested that camping be allowed at Creekside Park to accommodate the peddlers and paddlers. The city doesn’t allow overnight camping in the park.

A motion made by councilor Mark Honsey and seconded by councilor Jim O’Donnell to allow camping for those two events was unanimously approved.

Flood loans forgiven

The council approved the action and documentation regarding four flood loans.

The documentation indicated that the five-year term for the loans had been met, that the 75 percent forgivable installment ($100,000) has been applied and the next installment number three or number four of five installments of the 20 percent forgivable amount shall now be forgiven with the remaining balance to be forgiven in equal installments until the balance is at zero.

At that time the collateral assignments applied to property affected may be removed.

The four flood loans were for Jerome Rivers, the Rushford State Bank, Sterling Pharmacy and Sterling LTC Pharmacy.

Forbearance for Loken Inn

The council also approved the recommendation made by the Rushford EDA to grant a 12-month forbearance to Loken’s Rushford Inn on its EDA revolving loan.

The EDA subcommittee had met with Loken’s to review the financial reports, review their goals and discuss conditions of forbearance. Payments were made on the loan June 2016 through December 2016.

Terms of the forbearance include interest to accrue, periodic progress reports and resuming payments January 2018.

Next meeting announced

The next meeting of the Rushford City Council will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 27, at City Hall. The council meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month.