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Jackson city officials vote to dissolve police department

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JACKSON -- The Jackson City Council voted by roll call Tuesday night to adopt a resolution which will dissolve the Jackson Police Department as of Sept. 1, 2011. The only dissenting vote was from council member Dennis Hunwardsen.

As citizens filed out of the Jackson City Hall after the vote, police chief Tony Legnani was there to shake their hands and thank them for their support.

Jackson citizen Dave Schmidt, who started a grassroots effort to keep the police department in place through a petition, spoke to the council before the vote, submitting the signatures of 286 people who supported his cause.

He spent a lot of time knocking on doors, he said, and found that people were overwhelmingly opposed to contracting law enforcement service through the county. He said he was told time and time again by citizens that they had tried to contact their city officials.

"You didn't return their calls," he said. "The vast majority of this town does not trust you as a city council."

It staggered him, he said, to discover how many people were afraid of their city council.

Council member Fred Bern, who is on the finance committee, told Schmidt they had looked at every department in the city, looking for ways to cut back, including implementing a hiring freeze.

"And we will continue to look at ways to cut," Bern said.

Schmidt said many citizens of Jackson are "fed up" with the city council's "shenanigans."

"Everyone knows there's no democracy in Jackson," he stated. "I'm not sure who you guys are listening to, but this is not a matter for six people to decide. I urge you to put it to public vote."

Schmidt said he had read the city charter and believed it would take 15 percent of the voters from the last election to force a public vote -- approximately 279 signatures.

"And we have more than that on the petition," he reminded the council. "We will find a way to make you listen to the city of Jackson."

Schmidt asked Jackson City Attorney Steve Handevidt if the two of them could talk about a legal petition to pursue the subject.

"I represent the city council," Handevidt reminded Schmidt, adding that they group would need to seek their own counsel.