October 25, 2012 | Volume 117, Issue No. 43

Summer proves tragic for Pine County

As Pine County Sheriff, I write a quarterly column to update residents on current events within the Sheriff’s Office. We have now completed the third quarter of 2012.

I am saddened to report that during the last half of the summer 12 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in our county. Two of these accidents accounted for seven of the deaths. This number of deadly crashes, in such a short period of time, is unprecedented in scope and tragedy. Fatal automobile accidents are a far too common experience in the lives of emergency responders, but few responders ever attend the victims of triple or quadruple fatal wrecks. Unfortunately, many of our emergency responders now live with these horrific images and the knowledge that some of the victims were their family, friends and neighbors. My prayers go out to all those involved.

The Sheriff’s Office continues working to coordinate flood recovery efforts in the northern part of the county. This has proven to be a frustrating and slow process as those affected work through multiple federal and state agencies in an attempt to rebuild their homes. This process may take several years and the Sheriff’s Office will continue to assist victims by coordinating recovery efforts. Many people have contributed to these efforts and I would like to recognize the work of our office manager/emergency management coordinator Denise Baran. On top of her other duties, Baran has taken the lead in the flood recovery effort. She has demonstrated a level of compassion and diligence to duty that goes far beyond her compensation and responsibilities. She is a credit to the Sheriff’s Office and Pine County.

The volunteer Posse spent the summer providing service to the various fairs and festivals in our county. The service the Posse provides is invaluable to ensuring all of our community events were safe and family orientated. When tallied, their volunteer service equals over 2,000 hours of time provided to the citizens of our county at no cost. Members of the Posse also assisted in recovering the body of a drowning victim in Cross Lake and spent many hours serving as fire guards patrolling the blow-down areas.

During the last quarter our “Peace Keeper” armored car went into service, providing protection to our SWAT team. The Sheriff’s Office received the vehicle from the Department of Defense on permanent loan, free of charge. The automotive program at the Federal Prison in Sandstone provided needed mechanical repairs free of charge, and although our “Peace Keeper” is over 20 years old it has already proven its usefulness in protecting our SWAT team during three high risk raids.

Work continues on implementation of the new 800 MHz radio network and fire paging system. The main electronic components have been installed and are functional. Programming and installation of radios has been completed in our patrol cars and new hand-held radios have been issued to deputies. The Sheriff’s Office and county highway department are operating on the new system. The various volunteer fire departments have been issued their portion of the new radios so they can transition to the 800 MHz system.

The “2011 Pine County State Audit” has been released and I am happy to report that 2011 produced the best financial report for the Sheriff’s Office in at least the last eight years. The report shows only a one percent ($116,000) overage in the overall 8.5 million dollar public safety budget for 2011. Of that overage there are costs that we have little control over. For instance, rising fuel costs and automotive maintenance costs alone amounted to $70,000 of the $116,000 overage. Again, the good news is that the State Auditor reports that we are within one percent of our 2011 budget expectations.

For the third quarter (75 percent) of 2012, overall the Sheriff’s Office has expended 76 percent of our budget. We have spent the following percentage of each budget: sheriff 82 percent, corrections 69 percent, and dispatch 66 percent. It should be noted that expenditures are trending down.

Listen for weekly updates, during the Pine County Sheriff’s Report, Thursday mornings at 0730 on WCMP radio.

Thank you for the support.

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