New K-9 officers introduced to Meeker County Board

July 7, 2008

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The Meeker County Sheriff’s Office introduced two new members of its canine unit Tuesday to the county board of commissioners.

Deputy Reggie Sandstrom led Titan, a 13-month-old “bite” dog from Europe, into the board room. Titan is a German Shepherd trained to be aggressive and attack threatening suspects. He will not be brought into contact with children because young children, especially, might try to pet him. The department is not taking any chances on how Titan will react to children, Sandstrom said.

Deputy Jon Thoma brought in a “drug” dog, Sunny, who is named after Sunday, the day she was born. Sunny is a cocker spaniel mix and is about 7 years old. Sunny has a keen sense of smell and can sniff out even minute quantities of drugs, Thoma said.

Sunny is very mild-mannered. She will be the dog used for public relations, and in schools and places where there are children, he added.

County commissioners also discussed security issues with Sheriff Mike Hirman, in the wake of the incident in Morrison County recently. An angry Morrison County resident brought a gun into the courthouse and held county employees hostage until law enforcement officers shot him.

Commissioner Dave Gabrielson said he would like to have an officer in the board room during county board meetings.

However, County Attorney Stephanie Beckman said the gunman in Morrison County had the gun in a manila envelope, where no one could see it, including law enforcement officers.

Meeker County already has cameras installed throughout county facilities. The law enforcement center, county attorney’s office, and social services also have controlled accesses.

The courthouse, at 325 N. Sibley Ave. Litchfield, has two entrances, however, making it more difficult to control access. County Administrator Paul Virnig proposed keeping one of the doors locked.

Beckman added there are more irate residents over land-use issues than people angry over being imprisoned by the county. Several county employees have been threatened within the past year, she said.

Later, Virnig said commissioners Jim Swenson and Wally Strand will meet with courthouse employees to discuss how to make the courthouse secure.

In other law enforcement business, the county hired four part-time correctional officers for $14.44 an hour. They are Ashley Holmgren, Tanya Dotseth, Marlena Holtz and Timothy Bjur.

Also, Hirman told the board he had sold a forfeited vehicle on eBay for $15,500, and guns for $12,500.

Odds and ends

In other business, the county board:

• opened bids for the courthouse boiler project. The base bids were $93,499 from Wagner of St. Cloud, $83,107 from Tek Mechanical Services of Hutchinson, and $74,651 from Climate Makers Inc. of Blaine. The bids will be reviewed before a contractor is awarded the project.

• abated $2,100 in market value from an assessment for a building that had been removed from Meeker Washed Sand and Gravel of Darwin in 2006.

• received a notice from the eighth district court that the state will no longer pay for public defenders for adults in child protection cases, effective Tuesday, July 8. Public defenders usually are paid $75 an hour. This means the county must pay at least $10,000 more a year, Virnig said. At the same time, the state enacted levy limits on Minnesota counties, pointed out Commissioner Amy Wilde.

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