Commissioners OK DOC agreement with jail and talk TVA renewal of the joint powers agreement between the Douglas County Jail and Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) was approved for 2013 at the May 8 county commissioners meeting. The agreement with DOC allows the county to house inmates at the jail who are participating in the work release program – and make a profit while providing the service.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
A renewal of the joint powers agreement between the Douglas County Jail and Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) was approved for 2013 at the May 8 county commissioners meeting.
The agreement with DOC allows the county to house inmates at the jail who are participating in the work release program – and make a profit while providing the service.
Sheriff Troy Wolbersen explained that the offenders participating in the program have secured employment while incarcerated and are serving the end of their sentences.
“This is a way to work [inmates] back into the community,” Wolbersen said.
The state pays the county $55 per day for each person in the work release program. Although the inmates can come from neighboring counties, or another community in the state, the money stays in Douglas County.
“It offsets budgeted expenditures for the jail,” Wolbersen said.
Commissioner Jerry Johnson pointed out that the cost of operations has increased for the jail and the amount the state compensates has remained the same.
“I just can’t understand that,” Johnson said. He advised “talk to your senators” if the public wants the state standard changed. Some counties accept less than the $55 standard daily rate.
Commissioners accepted two donations to the sheriff’s office. The Women’s Police Association gave $100 to the honor guard. First State Bank of Kensington donated $25 to the DARE program.
Wolbersen also noted that the new dispatch system, known as Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response (ARMER), is planned to go live on November 1. The state requires the county to have the system operational by January 1, 2013.
AS SEEN ON TV – AND ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTY
Commissioners also discussed video recording of meetings with Coordinator Bill Schalow and heard from Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush, Drainage and Ag Inspector Tom Anderson, Park Superintendent Al Lieffort and Minnesota Extension Service Regional Director Riaz Aziz.
For about $500, the county could install video recording equipment to make the commissioner meetings accessible to folks who are not able to make it to the courthouse on Tuesday mornings. All commissioners voted in favor of moving forward with the project.
Douglas County has observed Stevens County and the city of Alexandria’s video recording methods. Stevens County posts meetings on YouTube and Alexandria televises via a public access channel.
Interim IT Director Laura Ziemer advised the board to research record retention laws and further discuss how the video will be disseminated to the public at the May 22 commissioner’s meeting.
Audio recordings of the meetings will be available once the agreement has been signed with the license bureau, Schalow said. The agreement should be finalized by the end of May.
Previously, the coordinator’s office said that the tapes are available after two years; that was not correct. Tapes are available to the public immediately and must be retained by the county for two years. However, there are no tapes for the year 2010.
ACQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES
Douglas County entered into a joint powers agreement with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) outlining the state and county’s responsibilities concerning aquatic invasive species (AIS). Commissioners approved the action based on Rush’s recommendation.
Additionally, Rush received final notification from the DNR to execute the grant agreement for AIS inspectors. The county’s decontamination unit is scheduled for delivery in time for inspectors to be on the lakes Memorial Day weekend.
“We should be nearly good to go on our watercraft AIS inspection program,” Rush said. He didn’t want to hasten the program to be ready in time for the fishing opener because he wanted it to be “polished and efficient.”
Rush added that the water temperatures were not quite at levels prime for zebra mussel breeding conditions, as of May 8. Temperatures need to reach 54 degrees Fahrenheit for reproduction.
Minnesota Waters reported that Rush has partnered with Bonnie Huettl of the Douglas County Lakes Association to be the first county in the state to possess and operate its own decontamination station.
Inspectors will service 53 accesses from the chain of lakes outward to lakes Ida, Miltona, Lobster and Latoka.
DRAINAGE AND AG REPORT
Tom Anderson reported that the main area of concern in the 2012 Douglas County Drainage and Ag Report was an area around Evansville, specifically county ditch 3. Branches 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 15 and the main segment will be scheduled for cleaning as directed by Anderson and approved by the commissioners. Open ditch repair is necessary for approximately seven miles and will cost an estimated $46,200.
PARKS AND TRAILS
In September 2011, commissioners adopted a comprehensive plan to put a wealth of ideas for county parks into workable segments. Lieffort brought a 24-month request for proposals before the commissioners at their May 8 meeting.
The plan focuses on planning and design for parks, trails, recreation and open spaces and is anticipated to employ a consultant at a cost between $20,000 and $40,000. Lieffort will bring future bids before the board to increase public awareness of the project.
“Public participation is what this is all about,” Lieffort said. “The more that we do in public, I think, the better the word is going to be out there that Douglas County is entering into this 24-month project.”
The next round of Legacy grant applications will be due in September. Lieffort said the county would be eligible for funding if it has qualifying projects.
“Current legislation removes the local share completely from the next round of grants and removes the project cap,” Lieffort said. “So there’s an opportunity here that is hard not to take advantage of.”
One potential project is completion of Lake Brophy land acquisition. Communications will be ongoing between landowners of 56 acres of property, LeGrand Township and Douglas County through August when the grant application process will need to be finalized.
Commissioner Jerry Johnson said he’d like to see an illustrated plan for the Brophy property and does not believe consultants would be necessary. “I’m sure Al has something in mind,” Johnson said.
Another of Lieffort’s land acquisition projects involves improvements to the Kensington Rune Stone park vicinity. Lieffort envisions a trail connecting the new park entrance with the burial site of Olaf Ohman at Solemn Lutheran Cemetery.
One mile of “beautiful, wooded, lake shore property” links the two sites, Lieffort said. The land is presently owned by a trust and will be for sale this fall.
Public Works Director Dave Robley added that land acquisition projects are coming forward because the Legacy grant, the additional sales tax that voters approved, is generating a lot of money.
“Over the last 10 years there was $7.5 million available for greater Minnesota parks,” Robley said. “The next 25 years, they anticipate $8 million a year.”
EXTENSION EDUCATION INCREASE
Commissioners entered into a memorandum of agreement with the University of Minnesota to provide 4-H and extension education services for the next three years.
Minnesota Extension Service Regional Director Riaz Aziz informed the board that costs to provide the services will increase at a rate of 1 percent for 2013 and 1.5 percent for 2014 and 2015.
Cost for a .50 full time equivalent (FTE) extension educator will start at $42,118 in 2013 and grow to $43,390 in 2015. A .75 FTE 4-H program coordinator will start at $49,163 in 2013 and conclude with $50,648 in 2015.