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Nevis still deliberating county's requirements for police agreement

"Caveats" imposed by the county are stalling the law enforcement services agreement between Nevis and the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office. After clarifying and discussing terms of the contract with sheriff Gary Mills and commissioner Don Carlson,...

"Caveats" imposed by the county are stalling the law enforcement services agreement between Nevis and the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office.

After clarifying and discussing terms of the contract with sheriff Gary Mills and commissioner Don Carlson, the council's consensus this week is the city's cost for the patrol car, possible overtime expenditures and additional costs beyond a $65,000 salary "need to be addressed" before a decision is reached.

"Overtime is a cumbersome concern," mayor Ray Melander told Mills, who conceded the issue had not been discussed in prior meetings with the city.

The contract states, "The city agrees to reimburse the county for overtime law enforcement services provided to the city in excess of the 40 hours per week," at an overtime rate.

Mills explained if a deputy's shift ends at 2 a.m. and he is called at 5 a.m. to an accident, the county would have to abide by the labor agreement, which calls for a three-hour minimum callout time, even if he spends an hour at the scene.

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"This could be a bone of contention if the officer is called to Akeley and we are charged overtime," Melander said.

"Nevis is not responsible if the officer is called out of the city," Mills said.

Although Mills advocated use of the city's part- time officer, he pointed out Nevis "will be getting our whole department, not just one officer."

Council member Paul Schroeder expressed concerns with the 70 percent coverage, as had been suggested at a county board meeting.

Commissioner Dick Devine estimated the county's cost for a deputy to be $100,000, with Lyle Robinson suggesting 30 percent of the officer's time be spent out of the city.

"He will be assigned to Nevis," Mills assured the council, "unless he's called to another spot."

The contract states, "Services shall be provided by assignment of one full-time deputy to service the city and surrounding area. The city and county acknowledge and agree the deputy will be available to take calls outside his/her normal patrol area."

Part of the community

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Melander pointed out federal funds for in-school officer presence have "dried up."

Deputy Troy Christensen will spend a day a week at the school next year, superintendent Steve Rassier told the council.

"Is the school going to suffer?" Carlson asked. "A presence is needed."

Rassier agreed. "Connection with law enforcement is an important part."

The officer's flexible schedule would allow the Nevis deputy to act as a school liaison, Mills said, "as long as it meets labor agreement criteria."

"An officer becomes part of the community," Schroeder said. "Can this be done? That's an unknown for me."

"It's very, very important," Mills agreed, indicating people in the sheriff's office have an affinity for Nevis. A public relations- type person will be sought for the post. "This will be his assignment, to be a part of the community."

"The county wants commitment," Carlson said. "We don't want an extra deputy."

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"I agree to a point," Schroeder said, "but we're in new territory. There's some apprehension. We've struggled with the issue since Lowell (Koebnick) left. If this works, we've fixed the problem for years to come."

"Some language needs to be worked out on overtime," Mills conceded. "I'm very excited about this. I think it can be good for both sides. I think it's an advantage for the city and the county."

Cost is too high

"One way or another we'll have an officer," said Karl Dierkhising, who said he's spoken with several people, including law enforcement officers, on the issue.

"It can work," he said. "But right now, Nevis will take it in the shorts financially. I personally think we can do it cheaper (with a city-hired officer). I think (contracting with the county) will cost us more than we're presently budgeting. People have told me it will work, but it will cost too much."

The agreement states the amount payable during the first year of the contract is predicated on the estimated annual costs and future costs may vary, depending on the level and types of coverage elected by the city, as well as future labor, fuel and other operational expenses.

The amount Nevis pays will be adjusted annually "to reflect the actual costs of providing services."

"This is causing concerns," Melander said. "It's an open door, a caveat that's making it one-sided."

"That is not my intention," Mills said.

"We came to you," Schroeder said of the proposal. "Now it feels like you're trying to sell us on it. We can't afford more than $65,000. There are still questions that need to be ironed out."

"I think we're going to be looking at $90,000," Dierkhising said.

"I don't see it," said Rick Carson, who's the city's police commissioner.

"If you're dead set on $65,000, I don't think it will go," Carlson said of county board approval. "I'd be less than honest if I was to say you can hang onto the $65,000 figure. I know the board pretty well."

Council member Bev Romer asked to see the police budget from years past, to make a comparison.

"We won't turn down calls in Nevis, whichever way this goes," Mills told the council. He advocated the formation of a committee with representatives from the city, county board and sheriff's department to address issues, if the agreement is approved.

"You will never have what you had with Lowell," Mills said. "He spent his time off in the squad car."

Another special meeting will convene at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 29 in the city administration building.

Sidebar

At the request of council members, Mills provided written answers to a variety of questions raised.

Q. Will the county officer be able to enforce any city ordinances?

A. Yes, a police officer can enforce any federal, state or local ordinances.

Q. Will the officer be on call or have a pager? Who pays for service fees?

A. The officer hired will be on call. The officer will be compensated according to the Hubbard County Teamster Local 320 labor agreement. The labor contract says officers receive a minimum of three hours at time-and-a-half for emergency call-out.

Q.How much control will the city have over hours and days worked?

A. The sheriff's office will work with the needs of the city regarding the Nevis officer's schedule.

Q. Will only one person be working in the city or will several share the duty on a rotational basis?

A. One deputy will be assigned to Nevis. We feel the advantage to Nevis will be the entire sheriff's office will assist as needed.

If the Nevis officer is off, fishing or out of the area and a part-time officer has not been assigned, another sheriff's deputy will answer calls.

Q. Who pays for fuel, vehicle insurance, service repairs, damage to vehicle, etc.?

A. As spelled out in the agreement, if and when the current Nevis 2006 Expedition is turned over to Hubbard County, the county is responsible for all of the above.

It should be noted that neither Hubbard County's liability insurance, nor their vehicle insurance will cover a Nevis employee and the second squad car. (The current part-time Nevis officer will be the responsibility of the city.)

Q. Who pays PERA and other retirement fees?

A. This would be solely Hubbard County's responsibility.

Q. Who pays for schooling and training?

A. Any schooling or training of the Nevis deputy would be the responsibility of the county. This would include the fees necessary to maintain police license. Again, Nevis would have the same responsibility for a part-time officer.

Q.Who pays vacation time and how much time?

A.This would be the sole responsibility of the county.

Q. What about raises, city or county raises?

A. This subject needs more discussion as Nevis has agreed to pay the annual percentage raise. However, it has recently been mentioned that the percent increase would be the same rate they would be paying other employees. Salary raises are negotiated with Teamsters 320 and have been negotiated in two-year contracts.

Q. If we have complaints about performance, who handles the situation?

A. Any complaints regarding the deputy's performance will be addressed by the supervisor or myself.

However, I will also ask that a committee be established, comprised of one or two council members, one or two county board members along with the chief deputy and me. This committee would meet as often or as necessary to resolve complaints and/or issues.

Q. Will our agreement with Akeley (for reciprocal coverage) still be in effect?

A. The agreement with Akeley is independent from our agreement. Hubbard County could not assume responsibility of that agreement.

Q. How far out of the city limits will the officer provide assistance?

A. The Nevis officer's first responsibility is Nevis. However, if there is an emergency call close to Nevis (within three to five miles) the officer might be called to assist.

The goal of this position would be to keep the officer in or as close to Nevis as possible. This is how the position benefits both Nevis and the county. Also, if the Nevis officer does cover a call out of Nevis, any calls from Nevis would be handled by a closer deputy.

Q. Who schedules the part-time officers and when no one is on duty, who covers us?

A. It was agreed Nevis would pay for hours worked by a part-time officer. It is my understanding the current part-time officer is only available on weekends.

When the Nevis deputy is off or on vacation, hopefully the Nevis part-time officer will fill in when available and the county will cover the rest of the time.

Q. How close is the officer expected to live to Nevis for proper response time?

A. Because of our union contract, we cannot demand where an officer lives. However, when we hire this person we will strongly suggest he live in or close to Nevis.

Q. How much experience will the officer have?

A. By contract, we must first post this position in- house, so experience could be from 20 years down to two or three.

Q. If the officer quits or leaves, do we still pay the contracted amount if no one else is available?

A. Nevis would be paying for the law enforcement services from the county and we would be responsible for hiring a replacement and responsible for calls until someone is hired.

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