Addition Of New Deputy Approved By Supervisors
“Things are just a lot more dangerous out there than they were 10 years ago.”
A simple pronouncement by Palo Alto County Sheriff Dennis Goeders to the county’s board of supervisors resulted in approval to add another deputy’s position to the Sheriff’s staff. The action came during the weekly meet of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on Monday, June 29.
The sheriff appeared before the supervisors to request permission to take part in a federal stimulus grant program that would make it possible to hire and pay the salary of a deputy sheriff for a period of four years, with the first three years of salary and benefits for the officer being paid through the stimulus grant, in an amount of $212,000. The fourth year, the county would be responsible for the salary and benefit costs for the deputy.
“Over the past five years, since I first took office, it’s become my firm opinion that we need an extra person,” Goeders told the supervisors. “We have two contracts in place for 80 hours each, we have a deputy tied up for three shifts a week handling drivers’ license duties, and its things like these that are taking away from what we’re supposed to be doing. Add in vacations, time off and such, and we’re a skeleton crew most of the time.”
Goeders pointed out that too often, only one deputy is on duty at a time, and if a situation arises where the deputy needs backup assistance, help can be a half-hour or more away.
“We had an instance just last week where a deputy was tied up in West Bend working on a domestic case when he was called to Graettinger, and that’s not uncommon,” Sheriff Goeders explained. “We can’t really rely on the state troopers for backup all the time, because they’re short handed too. They have to cover clear to the South Dakota border.”
“We really need somebody else, and this is the cheapest way to do that,” Goeders continued. “I really need to have two guys out on duty – not just for the public’s safety, but for their own safety, too.”
Goeders pointed out that he has done as much as he can to reduce his budget, citing cuts of $6,000 for car expenses. “I’m driving a nine-year old car, but if that’s what it takes, then so be it,”
Goeders was asked if his office was providing all law enforcement in the outlying communities in the county. “No, West Bend has their own Police Chief,” Goeders answered.
When asked if the city of West Bend had considered contracting with the sheriff’s office for law enforcement, Goeders and Supervisor Keith Wirtz indicated there was interest in such a move, but nothing would happen until the retirement of the current officer occurred.
“I’m in favor of doing this,” spoke up Supervisor Ron Graettinger. “I’d also like us to keep talking with West Bend for the possibility that they might be ready for a contract arrangement in three years or so. When you get right down to it, we’d just as well cover the whole county.”
Goeders noted that currently, the sheriff’s office provides the towns of Ruthven and Graettinger with 80 hours per month of patrol time by deputies, with each community paying $44,000 each for the service.
“Would that be the same charge for West Bend?” Wirtz asked, and received an affirmative answer from the sheriff.
“Another reason I’d like to have this extra deputy is because I’ve been talking with the schools in the county about creating an liaison officer program, where a deputy would spend say two or three hours a week in each school. The schools would pay a percentage for the deputy to be in their facilities.”
According to Goeders, he was initially approached by the school districts over a year ago to create such a program, but in the meantime, West Bend-Mallard had dropped out of the discussions due to financial considerations. Similar programs are currently in effect in both Kossuth and Clay Counties, and are very valuable and useful programs, according to the sheriff.
“The kids are out future,” Goeders noted, “And they can come up with a lot of information. They hear things, they can develop a friendship with this liaison officer, and sometimes, through what they hear and pass on, you can get on top of things before they happen and maybe head things off.”
Goeders pointed out that right now, the schools are looking for figures so they can budget for their costs to participate in a liaison program.
After a brief discussion, Graettinger moved to accept the federal grant to create a new deputy’s position for the sheriff’s office, with the understanding that the position may be terminated after four years if ongoing funding cannot be maintained. Wirtz seconded the motion, which was approved on a 4-1 vote with Supervisor Jerry Hofstad casting the lone dissenting vote.
“I’m opposed to this because we have less and less people, we’re collecting less taxes and this all needs to stop somewhere,” Hofstad said to the sheriff.
“I understand what you’re saying Jerry,” Goeders replied. “But when I started in office there were 60 people on probation assignment, and now there are over 160, so the workload just keeps going up and there’s not much we can do about that, either.”