Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Tim Franklin
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

County approves sheriff contract


The Pine County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved the sheriff contract during its regular meeting, but not without debate.

In the end, the three-year contract with the city of Sandstone was approved unanimously. Still to be decided are contracts with Hinckley and Pine City.

“My only apprehension is to commit ourselves to a three-year contract with the rising costs,” said Commissioner Stephen Hallan of Pine City.

Cities have liked the new three-year contracts so they know what the law enforcement costs are each year.

County Attorney John Carlson said Pine County is one of the unique counties in the state in which the county does policing for cities.

“Should we be charging more?” Carlson asked. “It’s a policy decision.”

Carlson noted the Sheriff’s Office has had good relations with the cities of Hinckley and Sandstone, but there have been some issues in Pine City.

“We will have a new sheriff coming in,” Carlson noted. “Hopefully those issues will go away.”

Hallan said he liked having the three-year contracts but said he was concerned the rate increase was too small. He said the contracts should have an increase more based on inflation.

This year’s contract calls for police protection at $44.75 per hour. The hourly rate for the next three years will go up to $45.25 in 2015, $45.75 in 2016 and $46.25 in 2017. The contract is based on how many hours each community wants dedicated coverage, unless there is an emergency elsewhere in Pine County.

Carlson added that if a city wanted a deputy 24 hours per day, that probably four deputies would need to cover that shift.

Budget update

The board also received a budget update from Administrator David Minke. Overall cash is up $1.6 million from a year ago. Minke noted the increase is due to nearly $1 million more in the general fund and $1.5 million more in the highway fund.

The Health and Human Services (HHS) fund is down nearly $800,000 from a year ago, and down $450,000 from the beginning of the year.

Minke noted HHS spending is actually down this year in comparison to the previous year. Expenditures are below 70 percent of the budget and revenues were up 7 percent after the third quarter, Minke noted.

"At the end of the third quarter, we are looking right where we should,” Minke said.

Jail down

The total cost to bring down the former county jail was around $60,000, County Engineer Mark LeBrun noted to the board.

Of this $60,000, asbestos removal cost $25,000 and another $5,000 to bring the torn down jail to the landfill. It is estimated it will cost $45,000 to put in a new parking lot. The county did recoup around $15,000 from salvage it sold.

“We had a lot of spectators,” LeBrun said.

Pay equity study

The county board, in a 4-1 vote with Mitch Pangerl of Pine City against, agreed to a contract with Springsted, Inc. in the amount of $32,135 for a pay equity study.

Minke said there were about four to five firms in the state, and the county solicited all of them, and received two proposals back.

The company will come to the county and do a fact-finding mission and then get input from both department heads and employees to determine which duties are performed. Employees will then get a classification that would be reviewed several times. The county will then receive comparable pay from counties, cities and in the private sector.

The study will look over all 73 county classifications and will also look at elected officials. Part of the contract will also include training for county employees in case they want to regrade a position, which would cost $225 if Springsted was chosen for that.

“They will not come back and say this is what you should pay employees,” Minke noted, saying it was only a guideline to see where the county lines up in comparison to others.

Pangerl disagreed.

“If they are showing they are underpaid, they will use this as a whipping stick,” Pangerl said, who is not seeking re-election.

Pangerl suggested using the $32,000 to get rid of all county employee unions.

“As you can tell, I will not support it,” Pangerl said before the vote.

Meth task force

Commissioner Matt Ludwig of Pine City noted in his report that grant applications of $750 were sent out to area schools. East Central was the only school district in the county which did not apply.


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