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City, county at odds about funding share for law enforcement center

By Staff | Aug 8, 2014

The Pierce County Law Enforcement Center committee met for a semi-annual meeting on July 29 at Rugby City Hall.

City and county representatives disagreed on the share of costs for the center. Rugby Police Chief John Rose said retainment of quality dispatchers is suffering because of prisoner boarding costs.

Rose said he has no problem with the county asking for more funding if it can show the city how wages, training and equipment will improve.

County representatives requested the city pay more on its share for the LEC, including two full-time dispatcher salaries, but committee chairman Jim Hoffert (Ward 3 Council Member) stated he doesn’t feel the city should pay more than the 24 percent of the county taxes. The 24 percent does not go entirely to the law enforcement center, but a portion contributes to prison boarding costs.

Hoffert requested a breakdown by county department of where the 24 percent of city taxes go, including how much to dispatch and how much to prisoner boarding. The mill levy for the city is at 7.75 and State’s Attorney Galen Mack requested the board consider increasing the levy to its max of 10 mills.

Council members and county commissioners butted heads over the cost share before Mack urged the sides to put past disputes behind them.

The committee is an advisory committee, which cannot approve a change in mills or budgets.

Mack reminded the two sides of the area’s law enforcement situation and asked the council members and commissioners to support that community.

“It’s as good as it gets in North Dakota,” Mack said. “We have five full-time police officers, three in sheriff’s department, two highway patrolmen, one BCI agent, two border patrol officers and game and fish. That’s a lot of law enforcement for a community this size, so we’re very fortunate.”

Video updates requested

Mack asked the city and county to purchase the same video recording playback systems for law enforcement vehicles. State’s attorneys have lost cases because video wasn’t running at stops or outdated programs prevented footage from being viewable.

“For the last several years, I’ve beat my head against the wall saying please have all officers have video recording in cars and on their persons,” Mack said. “Please can we get on the same page. We’re gonna have cases where we’ll regret it if we don’t have it.”

Dispatch situation


County Auditor Karin Fursather presented alternatives to the current 36-hour schedules for the four full-time dispatchers. She expressed a need to cutback on overtime in the department and suggested five dispatchers at 32 hours, which could cut back on part-time costs. Fursather said dispatchers have incorrectly been putting down vacation hours for days they were not normally scheduled.

Mack expressed concern that cutting the full-time hours could lead to losing employees. Fursather suggested giving raises so that the 36-hour employees would still make the same money per pay period with four less hours. A 32-hour employee gets benefits, so costs would still go up with a fifth full-time person.

Sheriff Matt Lunde said wages are too low and dispatchers have stated they would prefer to continue working three 12-hour shifts per week. He said scheduling wasn’t being done correctly, but he plans to have schedules set a year in advance to eliminate incorrect vacation reporting.

Rose said the way to retain competent dispatchers is through proper training and better wages.

“My concern is officer safety issues,” he said. “I have officers who have difficulty getting along with dispatchers.”

District 4 Commissioner Duane Johnston said the North Dakota Association of Counties is meeting with the Attorney General this month to seek more money for sheriff’s departments.

Lunde said he’s applying for grants.

9-1-1 fees leaving county

Mack requested a form be sent to residents to ask them to call their cell phone providers and request their 9-1-1 fees return to Pierce County. Phones with P.O. Box addresses have 9-1-1 fees go to the county with the lowest taxable value, which is currently McHenry County.

Appointments approved

Johnston (District 4 Commissioner) was voted chairman and Dave Migler (District 5 Commissioner) was voted vice-chair. The city and county alternate in those position every two years.

The committee approved the January minutes.

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