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County recognizes Child Protection Month


Fri, Apr 10th, 2009
Posted in Government

Social Service Director Thomas Boyd and county employees that work child abuse cases informed the board as to the increase in abuse cases at the board's April 7 meeting. Working through child abuse cases can involve cooperation between social workers, public health officials, schools, law enforcement personnel and the county attorney.

Social Worker Vicky Giese made it clear that over the last couple of months there has been an uptick in child abuse, many cases involving sexual abuse. She noted that families are under a lot of stress, heightened with economic problems. Giese remarked that a half a dozen families lost their homes last year through foreclosure. She said that substance abuse and domestic violence cases are always a problem but they too are escalating. Giese emphasized the added danger for children that surf on the Internet, saying Internet crimes can involve one in five children.

Giese said, "Prevention gets us a whole lot further than reacting" afterwards. For information on how to prevent child abuse go to www.pcamn.org or call 1-800-CHILDREN.

Captain John DeGeorge with the sheriff's department explained that it is important when dealing with abused children to get statements that are admissible and defensible in court. DeGeorge said, "You have to talk to kids differently than you talk to adults." He emphasized the effort they take to make the children comfortable.

Sheriff investigator Phil Whitaker noted that they are required to videotape and audiotape interviews with children. He warned of the dangers of online predators that use children sites like Nickelodeon and Disney that may have chat rooms attached.

Chairman Chuck Amunrud complimented the good communication and cooperation between the various departments that work on child abuse cases. He asked about the funding needed. Most of the expenditures in the sheriff's office come from local funds. For social service the majority of the staff time is covered with county dollars.

Sheriff Daryl Jensen asserted that these people work very hard and are deserving of a lot of credit.

The board passed a resolution proclaiming April as child Abuse Prevention Month asking all "citizens, community agencies, faith groups, medical facilities, and businesses" to support families.

Boyd noted the increased demand for support programs due to the downturn in the economy. This includes increased demand for food support which is at the highest level it has ever been nationally. There is increased demand for income maintenance programs. Boyd said that there were 3017 office calls and visits in the month of March which was 260 more than an average of previous years for the same month.

Stone House Stables

Jordy and Kim-Ann Johns who own Stone House Stables on the South end of Preston along Highway 52 introduced themselves and their plans to establish a business of Stone House Trail Rides. They are seeking a loan of $30,000, half through F & M Bank and half through the Economic Development Authority (EDA).

The money would be to pay for horses, equipment and site improvements. The county EDA portion of the loan would be payable over five years at 4% interest.

The John's researched local interest and concluded there was a demand. Jordy John said every summer 200 to 300 people stop in and ask if there is some place they can rent horses. He added there isn't a place within 45 minutes of their stable. Kim-Ann remarked this would be another activity to encourage people to stay in the area for recreation.

Cris Gastner, EDA, noted there was adequate collateral for the loan. Both the loan committee and the EDA board recommended approval. Commissioner Duane Bakke asked about the zoning. The land is zoned agricultural, the buildings are zoned commercial, and the house is zoned residential. Commissioner Randy Dahl said that the business would be conducted in the commercial area, even though the rides would be on Ag land.

The board approved the loan contingent on the resolution of any zoning issues. The John's hope to have the business up and running by May 15.

Other Business in Brief

• A Sentence to Serve (STS) Agreement with the State Department of Corrections was approved for the period between July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2011. Sheriff Jensen admitted the problem was that the DNR was unwilling to give a written commitment to fund half of the contract. Jensen has been a strong supporter of the STS program. The contract allows for a 30 day out, if funding isn't available.

• The county is pressing their legislators to get the program permanently funded. Jensen said we need the program, but the state needs it more than we do. The programs allows inmates to do community service and shorten their jail time and work off fines. Both the DNR and the Lanesboro hatchery expressed interest in continuing with the STS workers.

• A proposal to approve a telecommuting policy on a one year trial basis resulted in a long discussion. County Coordinator Karen Brown noted that it had been recommended by the Technology Committee once the needed technology was in place. The Personnel Committee recommended it on a trial basis for one or two employees of the Social Service Department. Boyd said that the trial basis will allow them to see if they could work outside of the court house building in a disaster.

The board voted to adopt the policy to be sunseted on June 1, 2010, to be used on a trial basis for one or two social service employees. It will then be analyzed as to whether continue or drop the policy.

• The board approved the purchase of Blackberry Enterprise server software costing about $4,625 plus $25 for each client access license. Information Systems Jeff Cooper expects about 20 licenses. Commissioner Marc Prestby questioned whether the need was really there.

Commissioner Duane Bakke said that there was a need in law enforcement. He said that it wasn't necessary for us, meaning the commissioners. Bakke said, "I don't think any of us are that important." Each authorized user will cost the county as much as $1,000 per year including stipends.

The board decided no new authorizations for the use of Blackberries would be allowed until a policy was set.

• The Debris Grant application deadline was extended to June 23, 2009. The funds are for cleanup of the 2007 flood. The last date funds can be expended is June 30.

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Hoffman Stables