by John Holler
Back in 1972, Wright County Sheriff Darrell Wolff began the process of contracting out deputy patrol hours with cities in the county — at the shockingly reasonable rate of $3.65 an hour. More than 40 years later, the Wright County Sheriff’s Department is still contracting with cities for patrol hours, but, as one can imagine, the cost has gone up considerably since the days when Richard Nixon was president.
At the June 25 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners accepted the rate to be charged to cities for patrol hours — $62.50 an hour for 2014 and $64.50 an hour for 2015. Those figures represent a 3.3 percent increase over the current rate for 2014 and a 3.2 percent increase for 2015. Sheriff Joe Hagerty said the figures represent a break-even point for the sheriff’s department.
“Our goal for years has been to come up with a figure that basically covers our cost, but doesn’t exceed it,” Hagerty said. “We’re not in this to make money. We’re here to provide a service and it worked extremely well for a long time.”
The county contracts with 13 cities in the county — Albertville, Clearwater, Cokato, Delano, Hanover, Maple Lake, Monticello, Montrose, Otsego, Rockford, St. Michael, South Haven and Waverly. Only three cities in Wright County have their own police departments — Annandale, Buffalo and Howard Lake — and Hagerty said the county works closely with those cities and has excellent working relationships with all three even though they don’t have a service contract with them.
The contract rate has climbed steadily over the years — from $15.52 an hour in 1983 to $28.50 in 1993 to $43.50 in 2003 to $60.50 this year. While the contract rate has gone up, Hagerty said the purpose of the program, whether in 1973 or 2013, has been to save money for the cities that contract with the county.
“The idea of the program all along has been to save money for cities that would have to spend a lot more in terms of officer and staff wages, equipment, office space and liability — which is a big concern,” Hagerty said. “When you’re in vehicles that at times move at very high speeds, there are going to be accidents. When you take down a suspect who is resisting arrest, at times either the suspect or the officer gets hurt. There are a lot of hidden costs involved. Our contract indemnifies cities and it’s a cost they don’t have to worry about.”
The board unanimously approved the contract rates for 2014-15 and authorized the sheriff’s department to forward the contracts to the cities for approval and signatures. Hagerty said that he is proud of the system the county has and the commitment that has been made to public safety.
“We have 87 officers in our patrol division, which is the most of any county in the state,” Hagerty said. “When it comes to criminal justice and public safety in Wright County, I would put us up against any sheriff’s department in the country.”
In other items on the June 25 agenda, the board:
RENEWED the county’s contract with attorney Cathleen Gabriel, who represents the county in child protection cases. When the state legislature mandated in 2008 that public defenders would no longer be asked to work child protection cases, counties were required to provide representation for parents who can’t afford an attorney. Gabriel has represented the county ever since. The county agreed to a three-year contract, starting Jan. 1, 2014 and running through Dec. 31, 2016.
APPROVED a loan through the Wright County Economic Development Partnership. The partnership has helped fund small businesses since the early 1990s when a fund was developed following a request from Standard Iron for Wright County to sponsor a loan for the company. The interest the county earned during the repayment period of the loan was used as seed money for the current program. Twenty years later, the current fund balance in the revolving loan program is $185,000. All requests made through the WCEDP must be approved by the county board. The loan in question was for a company in Cokato looking to expand.
SCHEDULED a technology committee of the whole meeting for 10:30 a.m. following the July 9 board meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the current state of technology with the county board prior to the annual budget hearings that will begin in August. The presentation will provide an overview of the county’s tech needs as well as proposed capital improvement projects for future years as advancements in technology warrant.
APPROVED the minutes from the June 17 board of equalization public hearing. The annual meeting allows residents to appeal their property tax valuations.
APPROVED the minutes of the personnel committee of June 19. At the meeting, the committee recommended hiring eleven replacement workers for employees that were either promoted, filled other vacancies within their department or left the employ of the county.
APPROVED a resolution giving county support for improvements on Highways 10 and 169. While not in Wright County, the highways are key arterial routes out of the Twin Cities metro area and are used by many Wright County drivers. The resolution expresses the county’s support of similar resolutions signed by Anoka and Sherburne counties and the Cities of Anoka, Elk River, Ramsey and Zimmerman. The resolution will be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. As things currently stand in MnDOT’s 20-year highway construction plan, improvements to Hwys. 10 and 169 are not currently included in the projects scheduled for construction.
Contact John Holler at [email protected]