Council discusses concerns about 911 calls

It has been anything but bliss in Scandia’s Bliss Neighborhood.

After years of neighbors feuding with neighbors in the west Big Marine Lake subdivision, the Scandia City Council is trying to figure out what to do about it.

During the council’s May 6 meeting, councilman Steve Kronmiller, after speaking with several Bliss neighbors, implored the city to get involved.  

Kronmiller noted that 13 percent of the 911 calls in Scandia came from the neighborhood, denoted on law enforcement call logs as simply “the 18000 block of Layton Avenue,” in 2019. Fifteen percent of the calls so far in 2020 have likewise originated from the neighborhood.

“The neighborhood is really in a state of chaos right now,” Kronmiller said. “There is concern that something tragic might happen.”

But what might be done about it is less clear.

For starters, the council acknowledged that enforcement of city ordinances has been inconsistent in the recent past, with some of the legitimate concerns having simply gone unprosecuted. 

“In some cases, we need to be restarting the compliance process,” City Administrator Ken Cammilleri said.

But Cammilleri cautioned that many nuisance complaints, such as those addressing building issues, fencing, storage of vehicles and personal property, seldom get resolved immediately. City ordinances often call for a 28-day “fix it” period to allow a citizen to come into compliance, with citations that can be issued only after that period. 

“The neighborhood needs to know we are going to enforce the ordinances,” Mayor Christine Maefsky said.

Code enforcement, though, will only address the legal issues. The interpersonal issues are another story.

Kronmiller characterized many of the 911 calls as simply “neighbors picking on neighbors.”

“They’re all kind of going crazy down there,” Kronmiller said. “They’re on pins and needles.”

Scandia Deputy David Peters told the council that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t offered any particular strategy or guidance for dealing with the ongoing concerns.

“They’ve left it up to me and my discretion to handle it,” Peters said.     

Councilwoman Patti Ray and Maefsky suggested that some neighborhood activities, to allow people to get to know each other better, might be helpful.

Maefsky suggested the neighbors could use some “coaching on how to get along as neighbors.”

“Communication seems to be one of the fundamental issues (that is lacking),” Cammilleri said.

But there’s plenty of skepticism toward that approach.

Shortly after the May 6 meeting, one resident responded to the council discussion by writing a 1,500-word open letter to the city, zeroing in on one particular neighbor and pleading with the council to do more.

Another Bliss resident of 32 years, Brad Bergo, said he can hardly remember a time when police officer appeared in the neighborhood at all. Now an officer seems to be there every week.

Bergo said he is friendly toward all involved, but also tries to avoid being seen as “guilty by association.”

Bergo, who harbors his own separate list of grudges toward the city, doubts the council’s ability to do anything.

“I stay out of it,” Bergo said. “It’s not my business. … I sympathize with everyone and I walk away.”

The next Scandia City Council meeting will be held May 19 at 7 p.m.

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