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County supports an honest day's work: STS contract renewed, grant received for hazard mitigation plan

One of the projects the Sentencing to Service crews took on a few years ago was repainting the grandstand building at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. (Echo Press file photo)

At their Tuesday meeting, Douglas County commissioners renewed a joint powers agreement with the state of Minnesota for the purpose of operating a Sentencing to Service (STS) program.

Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said the program has been used for several years.

STS allows criminals who have been identified as "non-dangerous offenders" to perform community work service in lieu of a jail sentence or fine. In Douglas County, STS only applies to working off fines.

"We do not give them credit for jail time," Wolbersen clarified. "It's all for fines."

Offenders are paid at a state-set rate of $8 per hour, which is applied to pay down the balance of a fine.

A state grant will provide compensation to the county for up to 25 percent of the STS total operating cost. The previous contract covered 50 percent; state budget cuts affected the new contract. Budget expenditures to operate the program during a two-year span total $203,574.

A maximum payment of $50,894 in grant funds will be paid during the contract period between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2015, $25,447 per fiscal year.

Commissioner Jerry Johnson asked if the program could operate on $100,000 each year. Wolbersen explained that approximately $120,000 is needed to fund it sufficiently.

Grant funds are used to pay two crew leaders' salaries, costs of transportation and tools needed to execute projects. Each crew leader will supervise a crew of no more than 10 individuals.

As part of the contract, Douglas County agrees to make the public aware of the program and the benefits to citizens. The agreement also states that work performed by offenders will not result in the displacement of currently employed workers or workers who are laid off.

In other law enforcement news, the sheriff's office received two donations accepted by the commissioners for the Honor Guard. The Minnesota Association of Women Police donated $100 and $200 was donated by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

PLANNING A PLAN

The Douglas County Emergency Management agency, headed by Sheriff Wolbersen as director and Fire Marshal Dennis Stark as deputy director, has received a $40,000 state grant to update its hazard mitigation plan.

"Basically just to update the plan, it's $30,000."

Jerry Johnson, Douglas County Commissioner, District 1

The agreement between the state of Minnesota and Douglas County provides $30,000 in federal and state aid funds for the planning process. The grant has a $10,000 local matching requirement for a project total of $40,000.

"Last time we did this in 2008, we did it all with in-kind services, which was approved," Stark explained. The $10,000 match is essentially written-off.

The cities of Alexandria, Brandon, Carlos, Evansville, Forada, Garfield, Kensington, Millerville, Miltona, Nelson and Osakis are participating with Douglas County on a five-year update to the all-hazard mitigation plan.

Stark said that a contract for professional planning services is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in order to get funding.

"Evansville just received a grant for a project," Stark said. "Had we not had a plan in place, they would not have been approved."

"Basically just to update the plan, it's $30,000," Johnson said.

Stark explained that planning is an extensive process that all counties in the state are required to complete if they expect to be aided in a disaster. The planning process is expected to last nine months, as stated in the contract. A risk assessment will be completed near the beginning of the planning process along with mitigation actions. Public review, state and FEMA review and local adoption of the plan are scheduled before completion.

Sections of the original plan drafted in 2008 that cover flooding, drought, high winds and tornadoes will be addressed. A new section on earthquakes is proposed. The current plan includes violent storms, flooding, drought, wildfires, infectious disease and unnatural or technological hazards.

Midwest Community Planning (MCP), the consulting firm that aided in the 2008 Douglas County all-hazard mitigation plan, will provide services for the 2013 plan update. As part of the evaluation, risk assessments will be done for the 11 cities and 20 townships in Douglas County. Consultant services are estimated to cost $30,000 for 400 hours and will be paid to MCP in $10,000 increments. The county's $10,000 share is divided between $6,000 in county staff time, $3,630 in city staff time and $370 for draft and final plan printing costs.

DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.

Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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