Drug task force considers per capita feesDrop in federal funding spurs action
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — In the first two full years of existence, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force (BRDTF) initiated more than 415 investigations, made 179 arrests (115 of which were felonies), seized $928,500 in street-value drugs and seized 63 firearms from Nobles, Rock, Murray and Pipestone counties. As for gang enforcement, 12 arrests have been made, 86 new entries into gangs have been documented, and 117 files have been updated.
While the statistics are impressive, they apparently aren’t being considered by the federal government, which cut 70 percent of the funds to the Byrne-JAG program in 2008 and has local law enforcement agencies wondering where their drug and gang task force funding will come from as early as 2009.
During an informational meeting with the Nobles County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, BRDTF commander Troy Appel explained the successes of the task force and suggested the counties involved consider collecting a per capita fee in the future to keep the task force operating.
The BRDTF is composed of one full-time agent in Murray, Nobles and Pipestone counties, as well as a full-time gang agent, full-time commander and part-time agent from Worthington. Rock County, which is also a member of the task force, provides funding but, as of yet, no agent.
“The major drug problem in our area continues to be methamphetamine,” said Appel, adding that many of the arrests stem from information obtained through confidential informants.
“Obviously, the task force has to have funding to remain efficient,” he said.
Appel presented information on a multi-county drug task force in west central Minnesota, which has collected a per capita fee since 2000. The CEE VI Drug Task Force began with a $1.50 per capita fee, raising it to $2 in 2002 and again to its present rate of $3.50 per capita.
“In 2009 we may be OK, we may not be OK,” said Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey. He said the per capita fee would be a more equitable way to fund the task force.
Setting a per capita rate of $2.50 in each of the four counties would generate approximately $126,200 per year.
Commissioner David Benson said a proposal in the state legislature to establish levy limits may hinder the counties’ abilities to fund a per capita fee.
In other action, the board:
- Received the annual report of the Heron Lake Watershed District. The agency will wrap up its Clean Water Partnership grant in August and has already been awarded a new three-year grant that will start Sept. 1.
“Our water quality is slowly improving, but we still have a long way to go,” said HLWD district administrator Jan Voit.
- Approved a conditional use permit for Mathiowetz Construction of Sleepy Eye to conduct temporary concrete crushing and recycling at an existing gravel pit in the north half of the southeast quarter and in the south half of the northeast quarter of Section25, Ransom Township.
- Approved a conditional use permit for Bruce Reisdorfer of Magnolia to construct a 66- by 60-foot nursery on an existing site in the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 9, Westside Township.
- Approved a conditional use permit for Sy Lonneman & Sons of Adrian to construct a 101- by 190-foot total confinement barn in the southeast quarter of Section 31, Olney Township.
- Approved the bylaws and committee appointments to the Joint Jurisdictional Zoning Committee. Terms were established for members already serving on the committee. The terms of Henry Greve, Norm Gallagher and Dennis Selberg expire May 1, 2009; terms of Dwayne Schmitz, Ron Wood and Matt Widboom expire May 1, 2010; and terms of Vern Leistico and Lyle TenHaken expire May 1, 2011.
- Resolved to prioritize bridge projects within Nobles County to apply for state bonding money. The bridges receiving top priority are Bridge 6538, located on County State Aid Highway 11, northwest of Ellsworth; Bridge 5903 on County State Aid Highway 15 northeast of Adrian; and Bridge L3484 in Larkin Township, also northeast of Adrian.
- Accepted the low quote of $26,150 from Laraway Roofing of New Ulm to replace the roof on the original Worthington public works shop.
- Received a 2007 year in review and 2008 quarterly report from Lee McAllister, director of Nobles County Family Services. McAllister reported the agency is still short-staffed, although a recent addition has helped alleviate some of the workload.
- Approved an interpreter contract for the Family Service Agency for an individual to interpret Karen, Thai and Burmese to assist the recent relocation of Burmese people to the county.
- Approved an addendum to the Family Service Agency’s contract with the Private Industry Council for MFIP Innovation Funds of $9,749 and Supported Work Funds of $14,577.
- Reappointed Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder to a four-year term as the county engineer. The new term begins July 1.
- Authorized a snowmobile maintenance agreement with the Department of Natural Resources for trails managed by the Frosty Riders.
- Learned that the overlay on County State Aid Highway 35 from Rushmore to Adrian will commence approximately the first week of June. The work is to be completed by June 15.