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Troubles At The T-Dock

By Staff | Sep 22, 2009

Emmetsburg City Council continued discussion about noise and vandalism at the T-dock at their meeting Monday, Sept. 14. Concerns were first brought to Emmetsburg City Council in August.

Sheila and John Carmichael live directly across the street from the T-dock on the west side of the south bay. After John brought concerns to the council in August, the council looked at adding the T-dock under jurisdiction to the Parks & Recreation Board’s responsibilities, and also amending the hours parks are open from 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. and replaced with 12 midnight to 5 a.m.

Sheila Carmichael told the council that the T-dock is a great place to sit, fish and view the lake, but it can also be a public nuisance.

“There is another element of kids who congregate there,” Carmichael said. “They come and go at all hours of the night. They have no respect for themselves, for other people and other peoples property. They’ve made this their hang-out.”

Carmichael said she has witnessed them racing their cars down the street, slamming doors at all hours, playing music so loud the windows in their house vibrate, tossing trash onto the streets

“I’ve witnessed them urinating in the street facing our house,” she told the council. “We’ve had them come into our yard, jump on our swing which was broken from both hinges. They have pounded on our doors at night and then run away. They’ve gotten into our boat and stolen our boat cushions.”

Carmichael added, “They refuse to get out of the street when cars come by. They challenge drivers who honk their horns. They challenge drivers and yell at them.

“The police chief has been very understanding and suggested we call every time there is a problem,” Carmichael said. “We have called 12-15 times and should have called another 20-30 times.

The Carmichael’s purchased their Emmetsburg home eight years ago and after extensive renovation moved to Emmetsburg permanently a year and a half ago. John moved his practice to Emmetsburg and Sheila invested in opening a retail store.

“After two summers living here full time and dealing with the T-dock situation, we’ve considered moving. That’s how intolerable it is,” she said.

Carmichael offered several suggestions to the City Council:

— T-dock and parking in front of that area be closed at 11 p.m.

— Signs be posted that the area is closed after 11 p.m. and also the area is in a quiet zone.

— The area should be patrolled more frequently and citations be issued for those that violate the law

— Increased lighting. Kids don’t like being in a spotlight.

— Additional trash receptacle at the end of the dock.

City Administrator John Bird pointed out if the dock is closed at 11 p.m. the kids will move to the street. He said the city can cite the kids for disturbing the peace and suggested that the city do a better job of policing the area.

“You’ve probably got a handful of trouble makers,” Bird said. “Why penalize everyone for a few troublemakers?

Councilman Steve Finer said he had received several calls with people hoping the dock will not be closed. He cited opening of walleye season when people want to fish in the early morning hours.

“I would hate to see, just because of a few bad apples, shutting it (T-dock) down to the entire public,” said Finer.

Councilman Cory Gramowski suggested citing the kids for disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace and issuing a large enough fine to be a deterrent.

City Attorney Brian Thul said the city can establish up to $750 municipal infraction, but the judge can still give the minimum fine of $50.

“I see some things in your suggestions that we can do immediately at a fairly reasonable cost,” said Councilman Brian Campbell. He was referring to placing a trash can at the end of the dock, increased lighting, signs and increased patrolling.

“Those are very workable solutions that shouldn’t offend anybody,” Campbell said.

Mayor Schad questioned if police know who the trouble-makers are.

“I’ve have provided license plates numbers for a couple,” said Carmichael.

“If we isolate who they are, we can prosecute them,” said the Mayor.

“It all comes down to witnesses,” said the city attorney. “We need eye witnesses to say that it is the person and you need to testify in court.

“The young man that was urinating on the street, he was still there when the policeman came,” said Carmichael. “I went out and said this is the one. This is the shirt he was wearing. He (officer) said, ‘well, he said he didn’t do it.’ I saw him do it and nothing happened.”

Carmichael also told the council, “We want to make sure you people realize we aren’t trying to discourage people from coming out there (to the T-dock) late at night.”

“Unfortunately it’s probably going to fall on your shoulders to keep making those phone calls,” said Finer.

“We can be proactive rather than reactive,” said Police Chief Eric Hanson. He noted that officers can issue citations for disorderly conduct, and then for trespassing if the same group comes back to the same location.

The two ordinances being considered by the council failed to pass. One ordinance was to consider the T-dock as a city park and add it to the Parks and Recreation Board’s responsibilities. The other ordinance was to amend closing hours of city parks from 12:30 a.m. to 12 midnight.

As the discussion wound down, council members agreed to pursue the suggestions made by Carmichael. Police Chief Hanson said his officers’ response will be complaint driven.

“If we’ve got people urinating in the street and have someone willing to testify, let’s prosecute them and fine them as much as the judge will allow,” said City Administrator John Bird.