Sheriff’s department to seek new deputy
By Clay Schuldt
Special to The Argus
The Houston County Board approved on June 12 a request from the sheriff’s department to hire a new deputy, but not without concerns about cost.
Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter said the hire was needed due to a recent retirement and promotion of another deputy to captain.
Yeiter explained that the department is currently at minimum staffing. A single position has been added in the last five years – drug enforcement officer Dan Coogan, whom Yeiter said has a heavy workload.
Yeiter said the new hire would be under budget and would be hired at a starting salary.
Commissioner Tom Bjerke asked if it was possible to postpone the hire without needing to pay extra compensation time or cutting vacation time. Yeiter stressed that sheriff deputies were working to their fullest.
“We don’t run with excess,” Yeiter said. “We run at minimum staffing. We don’t have people sitting around waiting for something to do.”
Commissioner Jack Miller felt the department could cut back on patrolling in city limits as there was overlap with local police departments.
“We have less than 20,000 people in this county, 10,500 of those people have police protection,” Miller said. “There should be no reason why we are patrolling within the city limits of La Crescent.”
“Just because a city has a police department does not diminish the statutory requirement of the sheriff and his authority within the city limit,” Yeiter said. “If there is no police officer working, we don’t call them. … We have to by law handle the call.”
Miller said local police could be contacted to respond to calls within city limits. Yeiter said it is the sheriff department’s duty to respond in the event local police cannot respond to a particular call.
“We’re not going to ignore a resident because they happen to live within the city limits,” Yeiter said.
Human Resource Director Tess Arrick-Kruger suggested that the county could hire a 67-day employee to fill the position and then perform a staffing study to see if the additional position is necessary.
Yeiter said the department would be opposed to a delay in hiring a new deputy.
“This is a budgeted item,” he said. “We’ve talked about our needs and minimum staffing. This is not something we come to you lightly with. I think if you’ll look at the history of our budget, you’ll see we’ve underspent our budget ever year. … We’ve been good stewards of our budget.”
Bjerke agreed with Yeiter saying: “This is a budgeted item, we are short. We look at other departments and try to get as lean as possible, but really lean will end up costing you more.”
Commissioner Steve Schuldt felt a staffing study should be conducted. Yeiter agreed saying he was confident a study would show the department was shorthanded.
Whether or not Houston County will participate in a 12-County Collaborative that would join the counties human services department will likely be decided after a June 21 meeting of the collaborative.
The Human Service Redesign Steering Committee, which is exploring ways to increase productivity in the human service area without increasing expenses among the 12 counties, is meeting June 21 when it is expected the number of participating counties will be determined.
As of this time Freeborn and Fillmore counties are strongly considering opting out of the collaboration.
“We’ll know a whole lot more after next week’s meeting,” Commissioner Jack Miller said.“I’ll have information after June 21, and then we’ll have our decision based on what we learned on June 26.”
Miller felt that Houston County should hold off making any decision until after this meeting.
New medical supplier for jail
The Houston County Board has forged a three-year contract with LaCrosse-based Uvanta Pharmacy to provide prescription drugs to the Houston County Justice Center.
Among the advantages of the new provider is a significantly lower rate than WellCare Price, which already offers discount prices.
Uvanta allows unused medication to be sent back for a refund as long as it is not removed from its packaging. It was explained that refunding medication is important as jails need to send it back frequently.
Uvanta offers free delivery, has no issues transporting medication across state lines and has six-day service rather than five-day service.
Houston County Jail Administrator Mark Schiltz recommended the switch of medical suppliers at last week’s meeting.
He said he felt that the current provider was not satisfactory and would prefer to enter into a contract with Uvanta. The commissioners did not take action during that meeting to allow them a chance to review the options.
District Court Administrator Darlene Larson brought two bids for court-appointed attorney contracts to the commissioners, and recommended the board approve Kurt Knuesel’s contract for two years at a cost of $48,000 a year. The recommendation was accepted by the board.
The commissioners approved a three-year contract with Government Management Group Inc. to prepare Houston County’s central services cost allocation plans.
The American Legion proposed donating to Houston County to fund a concrete project for the Ag Society at the Houston County Fairgrounds. The Legion cannot use gambling funds to perform a direct donation, but is able to donate the money to local government to pass on to the Ag Society. A resolution was passed to accept the American Legion Funds to pass along to the Ag Society.
The public is invited to learn more about the Highway 44 resurfacing project between Caledonia and Hokah at a public meeting Monday June 18 at 6 p.m. at Caledonia City Hall.
Representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Mathew Construction will be available to answer questions and provide information on the construction schedule and detour route.