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Sheriff discusses budget options

Fri, Apr 4th, 2003
Posted in Features

"We are looking at some cuts, but not to hurt the staff," stated Fillmore Countys Sheriff Jim Connolly, as he addressed the Fillmore County Board on Tuesday regarding budget cuts, courtesy of the state of Minnesota. Connolly said hes working on potential areas for tightening numbers but wasnt ready to present them in a public meeting. This came in response to Commissioner Chuck Amunrud asking if the sheriff would be cutting any staff. Amunrud also requested statistics regarding Spring Valleys current deputy contract with the county as the city was looking for options to save money. Sheriff Connolly explained that there are three full time deputies with a couple of part-time people filling gaps. The city could cut out the part time help if necessary. The initial rumor of the state sending back prisoners with less than a years time to serve, to their respective counties seems to have fallen to the wayside. Thats good news. Not only would the county have been burdened with the cost, but also the jail is already double bunking prisoners at times. On the downside, probation violators may be expected to remain in the county rather than being sent to the state Department of Corrections . Another concern Connolly has regards youth offenders. Connolly said those juveniles convicted of a crime and held to those standards are in a kind of limbo. One does not want to see those individuals placed with convicted adults. Where do they go if there is no juvenile hall? A partial solution, depending on the conviction for both juveniles and probation offenders, is more home monitoring. Those who qualify for the program pay for the right to be on it, which allows them to work outside the jail and still be monitored by the sheriffs department with curfews attached. This would be considerably cheaper than the $60-$70 per day charge for remaining in jail. It is up Judge Robert Benson to decide who qualifies for this program. Sheriff Connolly shared his concern of less funding for Police Officer Standard Training (POST). This cost approximately $400 or more per officer and has been an efficient tool in cultivating better officers. "Can we partner with another county?" asked Commissioner Helen Bicknese, hoping to keep current programs, yet spreading the costs. The county has already done so with other departments."I cant see it happening unless you put out more money now and get it back later," Connolly said. Commissioner Randy Dahl suggested a joint jail with Houston. There would be a lot to consider with such a project, though. Convenient location and staffing top the list. Connolly noted that Decorah would be an ideal joint-venture as they have a half-completed jail that is half full. The glitch is that that countys attorney wont allow it due to potential liability problems.Other related Sheriff Department matters:Commissioners Marc Prestby and Amunrud attended a DFO (Dodge, Fillmore, Olmsted) meeting which indicated that some of the more stringent rules may be put on the back burner in order to loosen up county money. Fillmores share of the pie is $117,000 of the $5 million budget. There has already been a 5.71% levy increase. The comprehensive plan between the three counties was approved. The board questioned a recent incident during a court proceeding whereby a victims son physically retaliated against the accused after Judge Robert Benson passed sentence. By chance, a deputy was present and subdued the individual quickly. Sheriff Connolly stated this was an isolated incident and the county shouldnt change policy because of it. Other businessCounty Coordinator Karen Brown asked the board to consider waiving the current practice of advertising for three weeks in regard to the full time Assistant County Attorney. This is due to the short time frame in which to fill the position before County Attorney Brett Corson leaves for active duty. The board had expected to see the advertising already commence this week, but due to a glitch in the attorneys office, this hadnt happened. It was decided to go with the three-week policy and roll with whatever surfaces.Reviewed an AMC video outlining potential cuts in Public Health as discussed by the departments head, Sharon Serfling, at last weeks meeting. It stated that 33,000 people would lose health care coverage in 2004 and another 50,000 in 2005.

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