Sheriff Tom Kaase asked the board to support a grant application to help pay for courthouse security at the board’s April 3 meeting. Commissioner Marc Prestby was absent.
It is written in the grant application for state funds that the “Fillmore County Courthouse complex has very limited security.” The grant if awarded could help fund for the first year a dedicated courthouse complex deputy who is trained in this specialized area. The grant which is a 50/50 match could help pay for technical security equipment to be installed in the courthouse including cameras/monitors, key card access points, and panic alarms. County and courthouse staff could also receive training in security measures.
The amount requested in the grant application which had already been submitted was $71,039 or half of a total project cost of $142,078. Kaase related that staff had toured facilities in surrounding counties to collect information to develop the best practices, policies, and procedures.
There has been work toward developing a plan for courthouse security since early 2015. A security assessment was completed in August of 2015 by a U.S. Marshal of both the courthouse and the county office building, during which security deficiencies were identified.
The Criminal Justice Committee had discussed and proposed what they believe is needed in preparation of submitting the grant application.
Commissioner Duane Bakke maintained the current courthouse, since the remodel, is very secure compared to what it was prior to that. He insisted they have done a lot already, but also agreed they should do more. He noted if the grant is awarded, the match to help pay for a deputy is only for the first year of salary, a salary that will be an ongoing cost for the county.
Commissioner Mitch Lentz said they have been talking about improving security for two years and have done nothing. It is time to figure out the need and to develop a plan.
The legislature approved $1 million to be available for courthouse security for the whole state. Kaase expects the requests to exceed the amount of funding available. Any grant funding likely will only be for the courthouse, not for the county office building.
Chairman Randy Dahl said he was not against having a courthouse security officer if that officer can do other functions during down times. Kaase insisted the officer would have other assigned duties during non-court time.
Kaase stated, “The grant has been submitted as it reads and I’m looking today for your support of the grant application.” Bakke requested that a grant application come before the board before the deadline for submission which in this case was March 31.
Commissioner Gary Peterson added there still are things to do, like an endorsement of the whole project. Kaase said at this point they have gathered information to help decide how best to enhance courthouse security, “It is a challenge.” He acknowledged the grant would only help cover the cost of things for the first year, which will have to be maintained thereafter.
Approval was given for a letter of support for the Safe and Secure Courthouse Initiative Grant application. Dahl said there is a definite need and in the end we prioritize and decide what we are going to spend the taxpayers money on.
Letters of support have also been submitted by District Court Judge Matt Opat and the Third District Public Defenders Office.
Other business in brief
• The retirement request from Chief Deputy Tony Webber was approved with “much thanks” for his 27 years of service effective June 30.
• Kaase showed the commissioners one of the ballistic shields that had been donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Four ballistic shields were donated, valued at about $750 for each shield.
• Approval was given to advertise for 2017 sealcoat projects on CSAHs 12,14,18,23, and 40. County Engineer Ron Gregg explained these projects will be funded by the Local Option Sales Tax. Sealcoating preserves roads a lot longer. The roads should be sealcoated again after five to seven years.
• Approval was given to advertise for a bridge replacement on County Road 109 and two bridge replacements on County Road 117. This work will be paid for with the Local Option Sales Tax. Gregg explained that the bridge on 109 will be replaced with precast rectangular beam spans which will cost half as much as a different structure. The two bridges on County Road 117 will be replaced with used culverts from a Rochester project, significantly lowering the cost of the bridges.
• During “Citizens Input,” Bonita Underbakke of Holt Township asked the board to reconsider the option of a Wheelage Tax to raise additional funds to help finance needed infrastructure. She said she is very willing to pay a bit extra on her vehicle license tabs to prevent car repair due to bad roads.
• The lower quote from Canton Heating and Cooling LLC in the amount of $3,383 was approved to repair/replace a gas line at the Canton Highway Shop.
• Approval was given to hire Kurt Njos as an intermittent social worker for Child Protection to cover for an employee on medical leave. He is currently an intern with Social Services and will work part-time until the internship is completed and will work full-time after that. His wage will be paid for with Child Protection grant funding.
• Approval was given for a Child Protection on-call procedure as required by state guidelines. There was considerable discussion about the possibility of paying a stipend of $200 per week for the Child Protection social worker on-call who has a specific skill set. It was decided have the committee look at the possibility of an on-call stipend before bringing it back to the board.