County Board OKs drug court pact

NEW ULM — Brown County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved a drug court surveillance contract for a surveillance officer for the Brown-Nicollet-Watonwan Drug Court.

In 2018, Brown and Nicollet Counties have budgeted $10,000 for the service. District Court provided funding for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and budgeted $13,800 for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Watonwan County does not contribute due to low numbers.

The position is critical to drug court success, said Brown County Probation Director Les Schultz. The surveillance officer tries to see everyone weekly unannounced in Brown and Nicollet Counties. He sometimes does home searches and pat-downs, reviews phone history and attends staffing and court hearings.

“We’ve very lucky to have a drug court. It helps save money in many areas,” Schultz said.

The surveillance officer gets to know offenders on a personal level and knows what will motivate, discourage and assist them into being successful citizens. He will also take into custody or work with local officers when arrests need to be made and report all his activities to drug court teams.

Commissioners also approved:

• A $137,062 2018 Minnesota Department of Public Safety crime victim services grant agreement. Brown County Probation has been awarded the grant since 2011, after a non-profit, crime victim services program was disbanded.

The grant is effective from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2019, to support general crime victims. The grant requires $26,419 of in-kind support, met by the assistant director/volunteer’s time and office space. The program receives $5,500 from United Way.

“This is extremely important for crime victims. Their needs are well-met by this. I’ll move it,” said Commissioner Dave Borchert. Commissioner Tony Berg seconded the motion.

Brown County Crime Victim Specialist Bernie Epper said the State of Minnesota thinks so highly of the Brown County program, it sends people here to be trained.

Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson said Epper helps save his office money. “If she wasn’t here, we’d have to do what she does,” Hanson said.

• Accepting a $10,250 Fiscal Year 2018 Families First collaborative agreement. It has supported the teen court juvenile diversion program for more than 15 years.

“I’ve seen the benefits of this program. Some people in it go on to law school,” Borchert said.

Brown County Assistant Probation Director Evonn Westcott said some jurors are prior offenders.

• Accepted the resignation of intermittent part-time dispatcher Susan Wieland as of Nov. 5 and authorized posting the vacancy for a full-time dispatcher at the mid-range hourly wage of $18.34 to $21.60, according to policy.

In a letter to commissioners, Brown County Chief Deputy Jason Seidl said in 2016, the sheriff’s office had 681.75 overtime hours at a cost of $22,793.62 to cover shifts. As of Oct. 6, there was 654.5 overtime hours, at a cost of $23,828 to cover shifts.

Seidl wrote that the current work force trend is to use available accumulated holiday hours as time off vs. being paid out for hours, leaving more shifts vacant. In addition, the benefit of a full-time dispatcher is, they will be on schedule for 40 hours a week compared to intermittent part-time dispatchers that may work a few shifts during a two-week period. Another full-time dispatcher will allow time-off requests to be approved without having to backfill the shift with overtime, but will not eliminate overtime completely.

“We’re not getting many applicants, so we’re training people a lot. It’s tough on our staff,” Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said.

Commissioner Dennis Potter asked for a future report on how the staffing is going.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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