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County gets new K-9; 2012 budget to be lean and mean

This brochure will be available to the public attending county board meetings.

Hubbard County's new K-9 officer will be getting a new dog.

Oakley, a Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) will soon be joining the force.

The sheriff's department hired the Park Rapids Police Department's K-9 officer, Dan Kruchowski, earlier this spring.

Oakley comes from a Rogers breeder and trainer and will cost $10,000. The county board approved the expenditure Wednesday.

"The demo was phenomenal," Sheriff Cory Aukes told the board.

The K-9 fund has $7,000 in it and DWI forfeiture monies can defray the rest of the expenses, Aukes said,

Oakley is 2 years old and fully trained.

Vulcan, the department's former K-9, was recently reunited with his handler.

Former Dep. Jeremiah Johnson recently joined the Leech Lake Tribal Police, which then purchased Vulcan from Hubbard County. Johnson joins former Sheriff Frank Homer, who heads up Leech Lake's investigative unit.

Aukes said Vulcan was never a good fit for the department. He was "animal aggressive" and children had to stay far away from him during demonstrations.

To ensure Oakley will be a good replacement, commissioner Lyle Robinson joked that "we're gonna buy two dozen cats" to see if the dog behaves around other animals.

Oakley is trained for tracking and narcotics detection. He also can search buildings and help with evidence recovery.

Aukes said Malinois breeds are increasingly replacing German shepherds as police dogs. Vulcan was a shepherd.

Malinois are more even-tempered, smaller dogs that resemble shepherds, Aukes said.

In other county business, the board:

n Once again decided to move the Social Services Department above the new jail, instead of relocating five other offices there.

There had been some concern about the square footage available to Social Services, which has outgrown two floors of the county office building.

Director Daryl Bessler said he has staff members that can preliminarily sketch a floor plan of office space needs to see if there's enough room. If there is, the board will eventually hire an architect to incorporate those ideas into a floor plan.

n Adopted the Solid Waste ordinance and four ordinances pertaining to shoreland issues and signage. The ordinances have been debated and tweaked for several months. The shoreland ordinances incorporated changed members of the Hubbard County Coalition for Lake Associations had wanted inserted. The amendments to the old ordinance comport with a new state law defining a practical difficulty necessary to grant a variance.

The solid waste ordinance defines collectors versus junkyards, for which a groundwater plan and permit is now needed.

All the ordinances are posted on the county's website.

n Paid Ralph V. Sanquist Construction Inc., $16,016.50 for the tree cleanup at Heartland Park following the Memorial Day tornado.

Land Commissioner Mark Lohmeier said he has had no complaints about the landscape changes to the park.

"You can finally see the lake," board chair Greg Larson remarked. The tornado leveled hundreds of trees in the park and throughout the city.

n Told department heads that for the third year in a row, they cannot exceed expenditures of the previous two years in planning their annual budgets.

The board has taken a tough stance on spending since the economy went south. Commissioners' aggressive actions have left the county in better shape financially than many of Hubbard's neighbors as a result.

But department heads will now be able to spend up to $600 on equipment without board approval. The limit was previously set at $300 and the board found it approving or denying relatively minor equipment purchases.

Board members reasoned they hire department heads to hold the line fiscally and if those managers don't, they will be replaced.

But those discussions also honed in on equipment purchases as commissioners scrutinized items to be auctioned off at the annual county sale.

A lawnmower listed at $1,300 was pulled from the list of items to be auctioned until commissioners can learn why it was put on the list at all, and not offered to another department for use.

n Approved Lake George firefighter Jeff Grabowski as a part-time boat and water officer for the summer.

n Approved spending $5,000 to eradicate bats from the old courthouse. The Historical Society has complained of being inundated with bats, which have been triggering security and fire alarms.

The board retained the services of Rollie King of Frazee, who runs a company called The Bat Man Inc.

n Tabled a request by Aukes to purchase a "reverse 911 system" until the long term financing of the system can be worked out.

Commissioner Kathy Grell repeatedly asked about whether the system, which would notify people of pending emergencies, would be budgeted into the sheriff's department or emergency management's accounts annually.

It is envisioned that the system could also be linked to schools to notify parents of school closings.

But whether the schools would want to contribute to the estimated $8,000 annual cost is not known. The schools have their own notification systems.

The system could also alert cell phone users, Aukes said, because many households no longer have land line phones.

Aukes said the county's 911 fund, collected from surcharges on phone bills, has $130,000 in it at the present time.

But Grell said she was hesitant to rely on that single source of funding because there's currently a surplus in the fund, which could be depleted quickly with regular expenditures.

The board said as a health and safety measure, the system made a worthwhile investment.

n Distributed a "Meeting Procedures" pamphlet to the public attending board meetings.

The procedures have been around for many years, said coordinator Deb Thompson, but she decided to update it and begin offering them at the board meetings,

The pamphlets spell out meeting procedures and rules for public input and include the names, phone numbers and addresses of commissioners, along with phone numbers of department heads.

"I just thought it was kind of appropriate they be down there," Thompson explained.

The board has periodically had issues with public meetings getting out of control and in need of an armed guard.

The updated procedures seemed to be prudent to hand out, Thompson said, although no one incident prompted their release.