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The state of Wright County
April 25, 2016

BY GABE LICHT
Editor

DELANO, MN – What’s the latest news happening at the county level? Sheriff Joe Hagerty and District 5 Commissioner Charlie Borrell were on hand at Thursday’s Delano Area Chamber of Commerce meeting to share the “State of the County.”

Retiring Sgt. Mike Laurent, who patrolled the streets of Delano for 11 years, was also on hand to share memories and thank the community for support over the years.

Hagerty began his presentation by talking about the increase in addiction to opiates and heroin in the county.

“Opiate use, whether it’s Vicodin, OxyContin, all those prescription pills we all take when we go to the doctor, it’s easy to get a prescription for pain,” Hagerty said. “ . . . It happens to decent people, all the sudden it feels pretty good to take the edge off a little bit. The next thing you know, you have a problem.”

Opiate addiction can lead people to steal pills from friends and family members, and even go to open houses to rummage through bathroom cabinets looking for pills.

To combat increased opiate use, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office is trying to educate the public about the problem and encourage residents to take part in the medicine take-back program. The sheriff’s office has five receptacles throughout the county, will collect unused medications at the upcoming Health and Wellness Expo in Delano, and will also collect medications from residents who call them and ask.

When opiate addicts are unable to get their hands on those pills, they sometimes turn to heroin, which Hagerty said is readily available.

“Every one of our heroin arrests and deaths, the person had been addicted to prescription pills, so we know what the precursor is,” Hagerty said.

He added that, while his office hasn’t discovered a meth lab in about three years after “quite a run of them” for 10 to 12 years, meth is still a problem in the county.

“Most of the stuff comes from Mexico,” Hagerty said. “ . . . The state patrol has been pretty good at intercepting some of those.”

He implored the community to call his office to report suspicious activity.

“If there is a lot of coming and going, that’s a good sign of prostitution, drug use, or dog fighting or cock fighting,” Hagerty said.

Hagerty’s office has about 250 employees, including about 140 officers. He said he is looking to hire seven more officers.

The county’s Law Enforcement Center was built in 2009, and can hold 360 inmates. Currently, it holds 168, many of whom are being boarded for Anoka, Sherburne, and Stearns counties or the state of Minnesota.

“They pay $55 per day per inmate,” Hagerty said. “We brought in $104,000 in the month of March without hiring any additional staff. Not too many jails can say they brought money in. We brought in about $900,000 in boarding fees last year. I think that’s going to continue. Those agencies we’re getting inmates from are full. We’re not. We had the foresight to build big.”

Hagerty touched on crime in Delano, referencing property-damage incidents that were apparently caused by a WristRocket slingshot with BBs.

“We think it’s a 20-year-old young man, but we can’t get him to talk yet,” Hagerty said. “I know a couple businesses stepped up with a $1,000 reward. Todd Findell from my office is on it . . . You get one kid who can just cause major headaches.”

He then introduced Laurent, who is very familiar with Delano.

“Mike was pretty much Mr. Delano,” Hagerty said. “We talked about how cops used to be, and we still have cops like that, where they get out of the car, they really work with the community; they don’t have the windows up, the FM on, and the phone to their head . . . He knew people in town. He got out of the car and interacted with people so they’d trust him.”

Laurent called Delano a great town.

“It was like working Mayberry,” Laurent said.

He recalled using the phone booth at the corner of River Street and Bridge Avenue.

“If dispatch asked me to call in, I’d have to go there and, in winter time, I had to rub the receiver before putting the phone up to my ear,” Laurent said.

Working in Delano was one of the greatest parts of his career, he said.

Even when walking into difficult situations, he felt the community’s support.

“We’d go to the Zoo Bar,” Laurent said. “If there was a fight there, the firefighters were right there to have your back.”

He left Delano in 1991, when he became a sergeant, but returned for the filming of “A Simple Plan” in the late ‘90s.

“That was a great experience,” Laurent said. “We had 12 hours of filming for two minutes of the movie.”

“There are a lot of great memories coming back here,” Laurent concluded. “Thank you for having me.”

Borrell began his portion of the presentation by saying he would like to run for one more term.

“I put that out, that I’d only do two terms,” Borrell said. “I told people I’m not going to become part of the furniture over there. Nothing bad about Jack Russek and Dick Mattson, they did a great job, but I just don’t want to stay there that long.”

Borrell said the board’s most important job is to set the tax rate.

“We go through every line item and question things,” Borrell said.

He did not say much more about the state of the county except to say, “Beside the budget and watching over different departments . . . you’re going to have a bad apple in there, and you have to deal with that,” Borrell said. “I take it seriously. I investigate every one of those if someone isn’t treated fairly.”

He encouraged those present to call him if they have questions or concerns.

“If you know someone having a problem with the county, a lot of time, a commissioner can help work through the red tape and bureaucracy,” Borrell said.

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