By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor
Houston County Sheriff Doug Ely provided the county board some encouraging news and also some not so encouraging news last week during the regularly scheduled board meeting.
Ely reported that so far this year department investigators, along with the Southeast Minnesota Drug Task Force and local police departments have completed the investigations of 26 drug cases.
Those investigations have resulted in the execution of 13 search warrants and the charging or arrests of 33 persons.
Those included 14 persons charged for the sale of a controlled substance, 10 persons charged with the possession of a controlled substance, two persons charged with the sale of a simulated controlled substance, one person charged with the purchase of too much ephedrine (the main ingredient used to make meth), one person charged for prostitution, one person charged for an outstanding warrant, one probation violation and three underage consumption violations.
As a result of the investigations, law enforcement officers have seized the following items:
• 19.8 pounds of packed marijuana;
• 96 cultivated marijuana plants;
• 1.4 ounces of cocaine;
• 2.5 grams of methamphetamine;
• 10 grams of psylocibin mushrooms;
• 328 prescription pills;
• 4,027 packages of synthetic marijuana;
• 42 guns;
• Two cars;
• 72 knives, an electric guitar and an amplifier;
• $18,112 in cash.
Board Chairman Jack Miller asked Ely if most of the persons arrested were Houston County residents and are there persons coming over from the La Crosse area to peddle drugs here. Ely replied that most are Houston County people, but they are not all official residents of the county.
When asked about the large amount of synthetic marijuana confiscated, Ely said most of it was K-2 and Spice, which until recently, were considered legal drugs.
Ely reported that they currently have 19 inmates in the county jail, including seven work release inmates and one female. He said that the GED education program is being well-attended and that they are now having a Sunday morning worship as well.
The bad news
Ely then told the board that so far this year the county has incurred approximately $70,000 in medical expenses. The county had budgeted $32,000 for the entire year and has spent more than double that in the first six weeks of 2012.
“We have had two very expensive inmates,” Ely said. “And there’s really nothing we can do about this.”
Commissioner Tom Bjerke asked if the county could use some of the money confiscated from the Drug Task Force and sell the cars and guns to help cover these expenses. Ely replied that money must be used for drug enforcement. They are two completely different departments.