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Probation reports on 2008

February 18, 2009
By Kurt Nesbitt Journal Staff Writer

NEW ULM - For county probation officers, very little changed in 2008.

Brown County Probation Director Les Schultz said 2008 was a "stable year. There weren't a lot of changes."

Schultz and Assistant Director Evonn Westcott presented the department's annual report to the Brown County Board Tuesday morning.

The annual report provides an overview of what the department did during the previous year.

It lost two probation agents and an office specialist and another agent began his third military deployment in Iraq.

Brown County Teen Court marked its 10th year in existence in 2008. The ignition interlock program began. The Adult Alcohol and Other Drug Court program finished its transition into a state program. The county's juvenile AOD program had its first graduate.

The financial section of the report started the first discussions.

The state caseload reduction grant, which the Probation Department uses to fund part of one probation agent's job, is the first "big number" of the report. It is supposed to fund 50 percent of a position, but Schultz said it only funds about 38 percent. The county has taken "a $15-$18,000 hit" because of the shortfall.

Commissioners asked for ideas on how the department could make up for the lost funding.

Schultz said he doesn't think the mandatory 40 hours of training per year that probation agents undergo is needed for experienced probation agents, because most of the training is to ensure probation agents can make chemical health assessments.

"It's tough to get new people up to speed and they can't handle certain types of cases unless they've had training," Schultz said.

The loss of the juvenile detention center grant, which the governor's proposal plans to eliminate as a way to make up for the state's budget deficit, will push detention fees up "significantly," said Schultz.

The elimination will mean an $8-per-day increase in the cost of keeping a juvenile in the facility. The cost goes from $158 per day to $166 per day.

Westcott said the department had 366 adult probationers who successfully completed probation in 2008 - an 89.5 percent success rate. Some probationers did actually reoffend, but either had their probation restructured or extended by their probation agents. The national average is a 60 percent success rate, according to Schultz.

Westcott later explained probation agents will sometimes try to restructure a probationer's agreement if the transgression is not very serious and if the probationer first admits the violation. She said the court is not involved.

Schultz added that the judge who presided over the case knows about the restructuring and if the same offender violates again, the Probation Department "has a signed document."

Very little change occurred in the department's adult probation statistics. Two hundred and two adults were on probation last year - 158 of them were men and 44 were women. Most of the men were between ages 18 and 21, then between ages 36-50, then ages 27-35, then between ages 22-26. Seventeen of the women on probation were in between ages 18-21, followed by ages 27-35.

The largest number of probationers was for second- or third-degree DWI, followed by fourth-degree DWI. Underage consumption of alcohol was the third most-common offense, followed by theft, then assault.

More referrals and requests for Sentenced To Serve have increased crew sizes for the adult and juvenile crews. Schultz said both programs have waiting lines formed by probationers looking to work off their fines. He and Westcott said the current economic situation is spurring probationers to request membership of an STS work crew.

The county board also:

Chose April 1 as the letting date for construction quotes for an extension of the bypass lane on CSAH 27 at CSAH 10 and an acceleration lane form CSAH 29 near Atlas Cold Storage in New Ulm.

Funding for the project will come from the county's local road bonding, from which $84,388 is available, and from the Highway Department's state aid account if more funding is needed.

The Brown County Highway Department proposed the projects because of reports of near-misses and cars going into the ditch at both locations.

The extension of the bypass lane on CSAH 27 was needed, county documents say, because a driveway near the east end of the lane was forcing drivers to take evasive action.

Trucks pulling out of Atlas Cold Storage accelerate at a slow speed, which has also caused evasive action on CSAH 29.

Approved a change to the county's U.S. Hwy. 71 detour agreement with MnDOT that will increase the state's payment to the county for MnDOT's use of CSAH 2 as a detour during the fall of 2006. The county will receive $9,908 instead of the original $3,015 because a contract extension increased the duration of the detour.

Approved spring road postings for 2009, which will post the section of CSAH 8 from the southern county line to U.S. Hwy. 14 as a 10-ton road.

Transferred the old CSAH 27 right-of-way to the city of New Ulm, which will allow the city to take over a segment of the old CSAH 27. The area is from North Highland Avenue to the west property line of the New Ulm Airport subdivision.



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