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County levy numbers hinge on deputy

They fought the law and the law won. A small victory was scored for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at Tuesday's county commissioners meeting.

Sheriff Troy Wolbersen was granted permission to retain one of his deputies until construction of the law enforcement center in Alexandria is completed.

Debate over how much to spend on road deputies and overtime is often discussed when the sheriff's office budget is on the docket at county board meetings.

County auditor/treasurer Char Rosenow presented the board with yet another set of numbers to be considered at a December 12 tax hearing. The first revised net budget showed a 0.31 percent decrease in the 2013 levy from last year. This figure includes removing one deputy from the sheriff's office and relying on overtime. The second budget resulted in a 0.55 percent decrease from 2012 and keeps the deputy's position.

Douglas County operates with fewer deputies than the federal average based on population, Wolbersen said.

To date, in 2012 more than $95,000 has been paid out in overtime. The deputy position in question was approved on a temporary basis, salary and benefits cost approximately $59,000 annually.

"This is not a for-profit operation," Wolbersen said.

Commissioners agreed to present the 0.31 percent decrease figures at the budget hearing, a total net levy of $24,548,839, in a three-to-two vote. Commissioners Jerry Johnson and Bev Bales voted to remove the deputy position.

Commissioners also approved a regional "logger" participation agreement with the Central Minnesota Emergency Services Board. The regional logger project intends to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and functionality of required communications recording efforts.

The agreement groups Douglas County with Big Stone, Grant, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens and Wright counties and the city of St. Cloud.

"I truly see an advantage to going regional," said Wolbersen.

The county will pay $20,000 for the first year they are with the combined emergency service recording system.

Maintenance costs next year will be $3,345 for a trunked system and $3,776 for an on-site premise system. The county will enter into a five year contract where the maintenance costs could increase 5 percent each year. Each entity within the project group will also contribute $1,000 a year for future equipment replacement costs.

The county had budgeted $167,000 for a solo venture on a logging project prior to this agreement.

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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