Crime doesn’t pay

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus

Crime is expensive. The Houston County Board is looking at a financial gap worth tens of thousands of dollars due to two crime-related issues.

At the Sept. 25 board meeting commissioners again struggled with funding a victim services position. For the last 20 years the position was supported by the state in the form of a grant. That grant was not renewed, nor was it for several other counties, and the county is left to bridge the gap.

County Attorney Jamie Hammell has been advocating for the position, saying the value of the work is immeasurable. She also mentioned that not providing such a service for victims can open the county to litigation.

The county needs about $11,000 to get through the rest of the year and about $40,000 for 2013.

Board members previously discussed finding a way to spread the cost of the service around all municipalities in the county, and early indications are that many of them are willing to contribute.

The question remains, however, on how to divvy the cost.

Commissioner Teresa Walter emphasized that time is of the essence as many towns have already set their preliminary levies.

“It’s terribly frustrating. Philosophically I’m 100 percent for funding this, but we got to have the resources to do it,” Commissioner Jack Miller said.

Hammell was instructed to pursue a formula for dividing the cost with assistance from the finance and human resources departments.

The board also agreed to scrape up funding to get through 2012.

Be warned, however, that commissioners are already searching for cuts in the 2013 budget.

The other expense commissioners continue to get updates on is the 1017 Sunrise Lane methamphetamine lab mitigation.

The trailer and its contents are considered contaminated, but before the domicile can be disposed of it had to be tested for asbestos.

The testing costs were over $1,000 and, now that the substance has been found, additional funding is needed to safely remove the asbestos.

Public Health Director Deb Rock told the board it will be expensive and that she is waiting for clear direction from the state on how to proceed.

“I need to figure out what is going to be the best for the county and what is going to be less expensive,” Rock said after indicating that Minnesota Pollution Control and Minnesota Department of Public Health are giving her conflicting messages.

Environmental Service Director Rick Frank said, “We want something in writing what you can and can’t do here,” adding that the county holds the liability.

No action was taken on the matter, though Rock and Frank have permission to move the trailer home off site if that becomes a legal option.

And finally, a short presentation was given by Sarah Utley-Wells of Bluff Country Family Resources (BCFR) on Domestic Violence Awareness Month – October. Like countless other government and non-profit entities, the state has cut their funding by 54 percent.

Despite the obstacle, BCFR is drawing attention to the epidemic that is domestic violence by partnering with law enforcement in Houston County and hosting a variety of exhibits and vigils.

You may notice purple ribbons on squad cars in reverence to efforts to prevent violence and shed light on the sometimes uncomfortable topic.

The organization’s motto this year is “know more.” At BCFR’s headquarters in Hokah a collage of 145 butterflies will be on display to represent the 145 victims they helped in 2011. The culminating event will be held Oct. 25 in Hokah during a candlelight vigil from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Como Falls Park.

Commissioner Jack Miller asked if the 145 helped in 2011 represented an increase over year prior, and Utley-Wells confirmed his suspicion.

She said such statistics are often tied to recession and poor economic conditions.