WRIGHT COUNTY BOARD MINUTES
JUNE 12, 2012
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek, Thelen, and Eichelberg present.
On a motion by Russek, second by Eichelberg, all voted to approve the 6-05-12 County Board Minutes.
Petitions were accepted to the Agenda under Aud./Treas. as follows: Item #5, “Remove Bog, County Ditch 24” (Hiivala); #6, “Pay PERA For Employee” (Hiivala). Eichelberg moved to approve the Agenda as amended. The motion was seconded by Russek and carried unanimously.
On a motion by Eichelberg, second by Russek, all voted to approve the Consent Agenda:
1. Performance Appraisals: J. Borrett, M. Janzen, Assr.; D. Clemence, M. Meemken, M. Rhodes, B. Schaap, Sher.; A. Halverson, Surveyor.
1. Approve Abatement, PID #217-058-000241, Preferred Diamond (Southside Twp.).
1. Approve Renewal Of Combination On/Off Sale Liquor License For “Hitching Post @ Lake Center” (Corinna Township).
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, presented a bill from Wenck Associates, $1,531.50, relating to professional services provided for the County Ditch 10 Hydrologic Study. The services are through 5-31-12. An impromptu meeting occurred between Joel Toso of Wenck Associates and the Lake Association. Toso reported to Hiivala that he is confident that the Lake Association is comfortable with the engineering services being completed on Ditch 10. Mattson moved to authorize payment of $1,531.50 to Wenck Associates. The payment will be coded against County Ditch 10. The motion was seconded by Russek and carried unanimously.
Hiivala requested approval of a 3.2 Malt Liquor License Application as submitted by Mark & Joseph Dvorak, new owners of the “Whispering Pines Golf Course” in Corinna Township, valid from 6-12-12 through 6-30-13. Hiivala said the Application has been signed by the Sheriff and Attorney. Russek moved to approve the Liquor License Application, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
Hiivala asked that the Board schedule a meeting to discuss Joint Ditch 14 and to utilize the services of Ron Ringquist and Kurt Deter. A Joint Ditch 14 Meeting was held previously in Stockholm Township with the benefited property owners. The largest benefited property owner was not available for that meeting. Hiivala explained that at the upcoming Joint Ditch 14 Meeting, Ringquist will review the records and provide a preliminary viewers report. Information on Joint Ditch 14 may be obtained from the Ditch 15 redetermination. Kerry Saxton will address the scope of repair. Deter will be available to address any legal questions. Meeker and McLeod Counties will be invited. A meeting agenda will be posted and minutes will be taken. Hiivala said the request involves permission to have Ringquist and Deter provide advice as they go forward. Russek moved to schedule a Joint Ditch 14 Meeting to be held on 6-25-12 for the purpose of meeting with Deter and Ringquist. The meeting will be held in Room C118 of the Wright County Government Center. The motion was seconded by Mattson and carried unanimously.
A County Ditch 24 repair request was received from John Pippert, who resides on Devitt Avenue in Monticello. The request is to clean County Ditch 24 north of the interstate to Curtis Avenue. Pippert also would like the culvert on the bridge crossing on 150th St. NW checked. A floating bog has been identified although Hiivala is unsure of its exact location. Hiivala said the request is to have Kerry Saxton, SWCD, inspect the area. If there is a floating bog, he requested authorization to expend up to $2,500 to have it removed. Hiivala plans to contact three vendors and proceed with the lowest bid. He understands there are five homeowners which may be impacted by the water, so the work should be completed as soon as possible. Mattson moved to authorize the expenditure of up to $2,500 on County Ditch 24 to remove a bog. Saxton should identify what needs to be done. The motion was seconded by Russek. Sawatzke suggested checking with the following vendors in that area to remove the bog: Fyle’s Excavating, J.L. Schmitz and Sons, and Schluenders. The motion carried 5-0.
Hiivala said the County has an employee in the Highway Department that was supposed to have PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association of Minnesota) withholdings, but neither the County nor PERA remitted PERA withholdings. The County is required to pay back the PERA liability and the obligation is not debatable. Hiivala has been working with Brian Asleson, County Attorney’s Office, on this matter. The employee will pay his share through payroll deduction and is responsible only for the most recent 90 days. PERA will only go back to 2009 to correct this issue. There is an additional 1.75 years that that the employee is eligible for PERA contributions. This will require special legislation. Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, said that every Legislative Session includes a handful of corrective bills. The County, PERA, and the employee will work together to determine who is responsible for additional payments. The effort is to bring the employee to the point where they would have been if the appropriate amounts had been withheld. Asleson did not see any fault on the part of the employee. He was unsure whether PERA should have picked up on this based on what was sent to them. Asleson suggested referring this issue to the Ways & Means Committee. The goal will be to have, by the end of 2012, something in place to present during next year’s Legislative Session. Richard Norman, County Coordinator, asked what amount is involved and if the employee is not at fault why the County would not support the measure before the Legislature to make the employee whole. He asked the purpose of referring the issue to the Ways & Means Committee. Asleson said the amount, to date, is just over $21,500 and covers a three-year period. There is additional time involved prior to this three-year period. The goal is to work with the employee and PERA to determine the amounts each party is responsible for prior to presenting this to the Legislature. The process would involve formulating a plan on the part of the County at the Ways & Means Committee Meeting. After that, the County would approach PERA. He was unsure whether this issue will be brought back to the County Board. Norman asked whether the payment will be funded from the appropriate line item in the Road & Bridge Budget. Hiivala said that would be his recommendation as that is where the expense would have originally been funded. The interest portion of the bill will be funded from Budget 100 ($2,770.77). Russek moved to refer this issue to the Ways & Means Committee, seconded by Mattson. Mattson asked whether the Highway Engineer is aware of this payment from the Road & Bridge budget. Hiivala said the Highway Accountant is aware of it. The motion carried 5-0.
On a motion by Mattson, second by Russek, all voted to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit.
At the last Meeting, Mattson requested that this week’s Agenda include discussion on the Bertram Chain of Lakes and the YMCA improvements. At today’s County Board Meeting, copies of the 11-18-08 Board Minutes were provided reflecting where the Memorandum of Understanding between the County, City of Monticello, and the YMCA was approved on a 5-0 vote. Mattson referenced page 5 of those minutes, 6th to the last line on the page, which reflects, “Mattson asked if the County has to agree to purchase each phase, or if the County has the right to negate future purchases. Sawatzke stated that the County is agreeing to buy three parcels, however, we are not required to buy all of the parcels.” Mattson said the County can get to the point where it chooses not to move forward with any more purchases of land or payments. In 2008, the economy was different. Sawatzke said this is correct. The majority of the County Board can vote against future purchases of land. The YMCA’s request went to the Planning Commission for approval, not the County Board, as there was general agreement of the County Board on this process. The Memorandum is not definitive on what the YMCA can do on the land but carries broad statements in this regard. Sawatzke and Thelen serve on the Bertram Chain of Lakes Advisory Board so they are kept up to date on things that are occurring. Sawatzke said that just because Mattson voted for the purchase in 2008 it does not prohibit him from voting against future land purchases. No action was taken by the County Board on this issue.
Marc Mattice, Parks Administrator, requested approval to expend an estimated $8,000 for electrical improvements at Collinwood Regional Park. The expenditure will be funded from the Campground Improvement Funds (Line Item 02-529-6605). The Fund is made up of fees collected at each camping location for improvements to Schroeder and Collinwood Parks. Collinwood Park is in need of an electrical upgrade so there is adequate power supply for modern campers. Eichelberg moved to approve the expenditure, seconded by Mattson. Norman suggested that Mattice work through Purchasing and obtain 2-3 quotes. The motion would include authorizing Mattice to accept the low quote meeting the specifications. Eichelberg and Mattson accepted that amendment to the motion. The motion carried unanimously.
Mattice provided the 2012 work plan for the Bertram Chain of Lakes, as recommended by the Bertram Chain of Lakes Advisory Board. The work plan includes establishing trail routes, carry-in accesses, and parking facilities. The trail length will be 3.74 miles and they will put in two canoe accesses on Bertram and Long Lakes. Some material left by the YMCA (wood and posts) will be utilized in making the parking area. He said $2,500 has been budgeted for general maintenance and he did not see expending more than that. It will come down to staff time and prioritization. The Sentence To Service crew will be utilized, and the City of Monticello is providing staff as well. Additional patrol will be provided by the Sheriff’s Department. This was provided as an informational item.
Mattice said the Bertram Chain of Lakes Advisory Board has recommended prohibiting year-round use of petroleum powered motors on the lake surfaces that gain access to the Bertram Chain of Lakes through public property. The recommendation language is as follows:
“No person shall operate a petroleum powered motor of any kind (including but not limited to ATV, UTV, passenger vehicle,) on the waters of the Bertram Chain of Lakes. Electric motors are allowed to operate on Bertram and Long Lakes, but only if the electric motor does not exceed the capacity of 2 hp or 101 pounds of thrust. Petroleum powered motors that are attached to a vessel are allowed to be attached to the transom of the watercraft, but at no time shall the lower unit of any such motor be in contact with the lake surface.”
Mattice was advised by the County Attorney’s Office that this would be enacted as a Parks rule, not a County ordinance and would apply to watercraft or access to the lake surface through the County’s public properties. It is a rule specific to the Bertram Park. The YMCA does have a water sports camp and access is gained through their property. Sawatzke said when the property was acquired, a survey was completed. The results reflected that there were some common things that people wanted to see, and among them were no motor boats on the lakes in Bertram Park. Another common theme was not to allow ATV’s or snowmobiles. Those vehicles are not allowed in other Parks unless a DNR snowmobile trail is involved. Sawatzke said the motion on not allowing gas powered motors passed 12:1 at the Bertram Chain of Lakes Advisory Board. Sawatzke envisioned these lakes could end up as the most heavily used lakes in the area, as people want to be on lakes without motors. As reflected in the work plan, there will be more accesses available in the future. Mattson asked whether law enforcement is exempt and can use motorized equipment if necessary. Mattice said they are exempt. Sawatzke said the YMCA still owns property and can use their power boats. There will be a YMCA access available for large boats on weekends. Eichelberg said the Parks Commission is fully supportive of this recommendation. Sawatzke moved to approve the recommendation to prohibit the year-round use of petroleum powered motors on the lake surfaces that gain access to the Bertram Chain of Lakes through public property. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg and carried 5-0.
Mattice said that on 7-27-11, he requested permission to submit a grant application for the acquisition of a 20-acre parcel adjacent to Robert Ney Regional Park. On 1-10-12, the Board accepted a grant appropriation from the Parks and Legacy Fund for this acquisition, and authorized Mattice to move forward with the acquisition process including appraisals, negotiations, and development of agreements. The landowner has since signed a purchase agreement. The purchase price totals $100,000; the County is required to meet a local match of $10,000 from the Ney Park Account. Mattice stated the Ney Park Account has a $40,000 balance. Mattson moved to authorize signatures on the Purchase Agreement, seconded by Eichelberg. Russek asked whether the Township has any park funds available. Mattice said there are not funds available, as funds were expended a couple of years ago when the purchase of 137.5 acres was made. Mattice said the fund is specific to purchases for Ney Park. The motion carried 5-0.
Mattice presented a draft resolution supporting the equity of Park and Trail Legacy funding for Greater Minnesota. He provided the following background information:
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coalition worked over the last two legislative sessions to bring equity to Park and Trail Legacy funding. The first funding round in 2009 resulted in 86% of all funds being split between the DNR and Metro parks, with the remaining 80 counties allowed to compete with metro counties for the remaining 14%.
In 2011, the Greater MN Regional Park and Trail Coalition along with the assistance from the Minnesota Rural Counties Caucus took an aggressive approach to bringing equity to Park and Trail Legacy funding, and were able to secure about as much funding between fiscal years 2012 and 2013 as Greater Minnesota received in the previous decade. Last year, we reduced the local match requirement and a $500,000 per project limit. Each of these issues overcame strong and sustained opposition from Metro regional parks, before succeeding.
Metro counties are signaling they are coming after the gains made by Greater Minnesota 2011. Late in the 2011 session, they delivered packets to legislators with a cover saying they are not getting their fair share of the Park and Trail funding. It was accompanied by a Star Tribune news story on the Metro/rural battle for funds, and a sample resolution Metro cities and counties are passing supporting the claim they are not getting their fair share.
Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Coalition along with the Minnesota rural Counties Caucus are responding by submitting their own resolution to members and friends. Wright County is being asked to adopt the resolution.
Eichelberg moved to adopt Resolution #12-33 supporting the equity of Park and Trail Legacy funding for Greater Minnesota. The motion was seconded by Russek and carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Lt. Todd Hoffman, Sheriff’s Office, presented for approval a 5-Year Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between Wright County and the Tri-County Regional Forensic Lab. The JPA was discussed at length at the 5-29-12 Committee Of The Whole (COTW) Meeting where information on the Lab was presented. Hoffman said that if approved, the JPA will require the signature page to be amended reflecting today’s date, with an effective date of 8-01-12.
Sawatzke asked whether Hoffman had available a copy of the current JPA reflecting the proposed changes. Hoffman did not have that information available. Sawatzke felt he may be in the minority but wanted to address some concerns. Sawatzke said the Lab provides a good service to Wright County and according to law enforcement, this service is faster than through the BCA. Sawatzke said Commissioner Russek and Sheriff Hagerty serve on the Tri-County Regional Advisory Committee. The current JPA and proposed JPA both include language that reflects the following (Page 5 of the current JPA and Page D-5 of the proposed JPA), Section 7.05, Duties of Committee:
“(6) Establish each Member County’s share of Facility operating, and maintenance costs and any agreed upon costs for upgrade or acquisition of equipment.”
Sawatzke said the Advisory Committee decides what the Member Counties pay. He has been indicating for some time that the current funding formula is unfair, as it is on a per capita basis and has no relationship to use. Sawatzke referenced the proposed JPA, Page D-7, Section 8.04, Payment. Sawatzke said Section 8.04 appears to have been amended from the current JPA and adds the following to the existing language:
“Each Member County shall pay its percentage share if the Facility’s total annual budget in direct proportion to that Member County’s population percentage of the total population of all Member Counties based on the 2010 Census. In the event that this Agreement is renewed, this allocation proportion may change based on any subsequent official census.
Sawatzke referenced the proposed JPA. He said Section 8.04 is inconsistent with Section 7.05, which says the Committee shall establish each County’s fair share. If the funding is based on Section 8.04 which relates directly to population, he questioned how the Committee can make a decision on funding. If the Committee decides differently than the population usage, it is in conflict with Section 8.04 of the proposed Agreement. Sawatzke said he sees those two statements as being in conflict with one another in the proposed JPA.
Sawatzke said Wright County is subsidizing Anoka County in the tens of thousands of dollars per year. He said Wright County holds 23% of the population in the Tri-County area (with Anoka and Sherburne) and pays 23% of the budget for the Lab. He provided the following data on Wright County’s utilization and funding of the Lab, based on the Tri-County Lab Report:
Year; Type of Service; Wright County’s Funding Percentage; Wright County’s Utilization Percentage
2008; Drug Testing; 23%; 6.7%
2008; Latent Fingerprints; 23%; 4%
2009; Drug Testing; 23%; 9.7%
2009; Latent Fingerprints; 23%; 5.2%
2010; Drug Testing; 23%; 5.7%
2010; Latent Fingerprints; 23%; 3.9%
2012; Drugs and Latent Fingerprints; 23%; 9%
NA; Other items sent over; 23%; 5.3%
Sawatzke said in 2010, Wright County paid $165,000. The proposed JPA will have Wright County paying on the population percentage for another five years. Sawatzke thought the costs should be based on utilization. If Wright County uses 30%, they should fund 30%. He did not feel that Wright County should continue to fund 23% of the Lab’s budget for 5-9% of the services. Sawatzke stated he will not vote to support the proposed JPA, not because it is not a good Crime Lab or because of the quality of work, but because Wright County has been subsidizing the taxpayers of Anoka County for five years. He said now is Wright County’s chance to say no.
Russek said the data Sawatzke provided does not include all expenditures by Anoka County. Page 2 of the 5-29-12 COTW Minutes reflect that Anoka County purchased DNA instrumentation at an approximate cost of $300,000. That was not added to the cost of operation. Anoka County funds expenditures outside of the costs of operation. Russek said Wright County has been part of this since the beginning and has invested in it. The Wright County Sheriff and the County Attorney support the Lab. Results are received faster and jail time may be saved over what can be accomplished through the BCA. Russek said he is totally in favor of this. He made a motion to sign the JPA and to proceed. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg.
Thelen asked if the Sheriff or Attorney’s Offices wanted to speak to the inequity in funding. At the 5-29-12 COTW Meeting, Sawatzke referenced the East Central Regional Juvenile Detention Center and fees being based on number of beds used. She asked that those Offices address the feasibility on these types of services.
Sheriff Joe Hagerty said he appreciates the concern Sawatzke has held for many years on funding. Hagerty said that issue was addressed extensively with the voting members of the Advisory Committee. The Lab is a collaborative effort that the State pushed for, and the current Sheriff’s from the three Member Counties were not involved at the onset of that project. Sheriff Hagerty did not feel anyone was arguing that the need is there or about the future use of the Lab. He felt the issue relates to money and the funding formula. The funding formula is broken out by population to the three Member Counties and everyone in those three Counties (500,000 people) has the opportunity to use the Lab. It is up to the Attorneys and Sheriff’s in each County how frequently the Lab is used. There are things with the Lab that they anticipate will be up and running in the future, one of those being DNA.
Hagerty said the current JPA expires February, 2013. One of the reasons they are requesting the commitment early is so the Lab can attract scientists to get DNA services up and running. The BCA has DNA services already. He said there was a lot of pressure five years ago on the Sheriff’s Office and the BCA. Methamphetamines were about 80% of what they dealt with at that time. The labs could not keep up with the demand and the push came for a regionalized facility. The Lab was built and funded partially with $2 million from the State. Anoka County funded the bricks and mortar and equipment. They also fund some of the labor. Sheriff Hagerty thinks the utilization of the Lab will increase when the DNA services are implemented. He understands that Wright County is subsidizing to some extent. He looks to the future and what benefit the County will realize. If a quick turnaround can be realized with latent prints or touch DNA, crimes may be solved quicker. State and National databases will also be available. Hagerty said he cannot argue with the statistics but possibly more equity will be realized in the future. This topic was discussed with the Advisory Committee. Sheriff Hagerty said that timing is key. There is not a huge pool of forensic scientists that are willing to leave a secure lab if the future of the Tri-County Lab is uncertain. He would like to see approval by a majority vote to enter into the next five-year period expiring February, 2018. The intent is for the JPA to be effective 8-01-12.
Mattson asked whether other counties are using the Lab and whether a fee schedule has been set up. Sheriff Hagerty said they are trying to attract other counties. Discussion has been held with Hennepin County and St. Cloud. Russek said the Lab is not taking other county’s work as the Lab is not fully established. Russek said that is why they are after the five-year contract. That will assist in attracting experienced scientists. The Lab will become fully functional and they will be able to attain accreditation. The Lab will then look to non-member counties. Sheriff Hagerty said Erchal Springer, the Tri-County Lab Director, was at the BCA Lab for 30 years and knows what is needed to move forward. Hagerty feels use will rise, especially with DNA Certification.
Tom Kelly, County Attorney, said the Lab is not at the point that was hoped for when it was first started. There have been setbacks, including college hires without experience. He felt it is all about quality with the Lab. Kelly said the goal is to move forward with what they had all envisioned. He did not feel Wright County should back out just because they are not at that point yet. Things do not always go as planned and there are growing pains. Kelly said the Lab costs each taxpayer $2.94. As County Attorney and the Chief Prosecuting Authority, he understands that people want crimes solved. In the near future, he said it will be nice to have a quicker turnaround so that they can better serve the public. Kelly said the JPA does include a 180-day out clause, allowing the County to opt out if things are not going as planned or it is no longer in the best interest of the County. Kelly encouraged the County Board to continue with the JPA, even though the Lab is not at the place that was envisioned. One source of frustration for him is that the Lab has not been able to provide services for non-members, which would help to reduce overall costs. Russek said it is hard to find qualified people to hire for the Lab. Having a 5-year contract will provide some stability to aid in attracting scientists. Kelly said until that foundation is where it needs to be, it is hard to attract the individuals needed for the quality and peer review. Peer review is key, and that will help with attaining accreditation. With the 180-day out clause and the cost of $2.94 per taxpayer, he felt it was worth waiting to see if the Lab becomes what they had envisioned.
Thelen feels people have bought into the idea and concept of the Lab. The question for her relates to the equity of the population funding formula, which she understands was carried on a 2:1 vote at the Advisory Committee Meeting. She hopes that the reason the vote was 2:1 by population was based on something other than it was cheaper for the other two counties. She questioned if there is something that makes the funding by population fair even though at this point Wright County is using far less services. Kelly said that as Chief Prosecuting Authority, he supports the Lab. He does not have the answers on the cost structure, although he surmised that when the Lab first started, they had no idea of the usage. From his discussions with Hagerty and Russek, he understands the funding concern has been raised at the Advisory Committee Meetings. He feels they are at the stage now where there could be discussion. Thelen asked whether there could be some review of Section 8.04. Kelly felt that those discussions can take place on an annual basis by the Advisory Committee. Kelly was unsure what type of outcome there would be on that request by those who have the voting power. Sawatzke said the bylaws have been changed in the proposed JPA and reflect that payment is based on a percentage of population. He views that as inconsistent with the Section reflecting that the Advisory Committee will decide that. Sawatzke asked how the County can enter into an Agreement that doesn’t have a clear means of funding. The amount of money Wright County is looking at in 2013 is $365,000. If the County’s history on usage is any indication on future usage, he said only about $100,000 of it is for services Wright County will use. Sawatzke referenced Russek’s comment that Anoka funded $300,000 for one type of equipment. In that situation, if Wright County would utilize that equipment 10%, that would equate to Wright County’s cost being $30,000. Sawatzke said $30,000 gets paid back quickly when Wright County pays that much for usage. Sawatzke does not feel Wright County needs to agree to the population funding formula and that this is the time to sit down and discuss this. He feels this should be negotiated and that Wright County should not be placed in this type of position. Kelly said he did not have an argument with that. His understanding is that the JPA allows for an out clause if the County does not feel the Lab is where it needs to be.
Mattson questioned whether the JPA could be brought back to the County Board reflecting the changes that are proposed and the reasoning behind those changes. Lt. Todd Hoffman, Sheriff’s Office, said that this is the final document. The concerns brought up by Sawatzke were conveyed at the Advisory Committee Meeting. Thelen asked for the reason the Committee gave in rejecting those arguments, besides the fact that the Lab is available to everyone. She questioned why a formula wasn’t considered based on use or population and use. Hoffman said it is not the Wright County Sheriff’s Office stating they want a formula based on population. He referenced value. For example, criminals do not stay within county boundaries. They cross lines and commit crimes. If a burglary is solved in Anoka County due to the availability of latent print or DNA services, it will have an impact on Wright County. Although Wright County may pay 23% for services, some of the cases in Anoka County may directly relate to cases in Wright County. Hoffman said there was a large burglary ring that was solved two years ago during an attempted burglary in Wright County. That affected five other counties in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin. Hoffman said there is value in sharing resources.
Hoffman said they would like an up or down vote by the County Board on the proposed JPA. He understands that this is the final document and it cannot be revised. Thelen said it is her experience with other JPA’s that if they are voted down, there is a possibility to revisit the Agreement. Hoffman said if the Wright County Board votes this down, there is no longer a Tri-County Lab. They will have to go back and revisit the JPA. Sawatzke said then maybe they will finally have a customer willing to buy their services. Hoffman said there is a value; it is up to the Board whether that value is 23%. Thelen feels there should be an opportunity for negotiating. She thought there may be an opportunity to put something into the JPA that allows members to look at the funding formula on an annual basis once the forensic scientists are hired. Hoffman said there were previous negotiations. If some of the benchmark issues are not reached, such as DNA, the out clause in the JPA switches from 180 days to 60 days. Hoffman said having DNA services at the Lab is important. They want to be able to submit DNA for things other than violent crimes. The BCA is so overwhelmed, only the violent crimes get tested for DNA.
Sawatzke said there are two different issues. One is the good work and valuable service of the Lab. The other is equity in funding. He has no argument and agrees with the good work and valuable service that the Sheriff’s Office has talked about. However, he does not feel that the current funding formula is fair.
Brian Lutes, Chief Attorney in the Criminal Division of the County Attorney’s Office, said Sawatzke’s comments have merit and it is hard to argue against the utilization numbers. One problem with a user based funding formula is that it can become a choice of whether to send evidence for testing. He works with drug cases and stated that most of his 5th degree cases settle. He questioned whether the cases would settle without a crime lab analysis and he felt this was probably the case. For the ones that don’t settle and there is a trial, then it puts them into a short time frame to try to get the Crime Lab to analyze the evidence on a short turnaround. At some point, the Lab gets frustrated with doing that. Lutes felt that if all the cities and counties would make these choices, they may be left with a Crime Lab that is not utilized. Another point Lutes made is that efficiency has become the number one goal for the Judges. One problem with the BCA was the timeliness of the results. Lutes is not seeing that as an issue with the Tri-County Crime Lab, with results being produced very early on in cases. It is rare that he asks for a continuance because drug results are not being turned around by the Tri-County Lab. Thelen said she appreciates the points about the actual cost analysis; she said that is what they are trying to get at as opposed to whether it has value.
Asleson asked to address Sawatzke’s question on Section 8.04 language. The drafts were run through him as changes were made by the three Member Counties. Section 8.04 language was added reflecting a funding formula on the basis of population. This was seen as a shortcoming in the original JPA. There was language that talked about the Advisory Committee determining what the three Counties would pay, but it was not clear. The Advisory Committee is not meeting monthly to look at what should be billed to each County. He did not view the language about the Advisory Committee as inconsistent, as the membership can change as appointments are made by various Boards and new Sheriff’s are elected. If there is a will to change the funding system, there is a way to take care of that. Asleson said at this point, there is not the will to do that. Billing based on usage may be more difficult as not every case is going to be the same in terms of time used by the Lab to analyze evidence. He viewed it as a different situation than charging for beds at Lino Lakes. Asleson was not at the Advisory Committee Meeting where Hagerty, Russek and Hoffman spoke with the Committee on the population based funding formula. The sense Asleson got through the negotiations that occurred was that the population based funding was the fairest at this point in time. He felt that could change in the future. Sawatzke said it is not the fairest method. Relative to it being too complicated to look at usage and figuring out how to bill, he questioned how non-member counties will buy service if Anoka County can’t figure out how to bill and track it.
Thelen asked Asleson to address Hoffman’s comment that the JPA is in its final version, that it must be accepted or it becomes a two County Lab. She asked whether the draft JPA could be sent back indicating Wright County wants to review this next year as they want usage monitored and discussion on whether a more fair formula could be arrived at. Asleson said the Lab wants to move forward with the hire of DNA scientists. To go back now with requested changes to the JPA would delay that process by a couple of months at minimum. In addition, at this point Wright County has been outvoted. Thelen said this does not mean she wants a new funding formula now. She would like language in the JPA to reflect review on an annual basis and discussion on arriving at a formula that is also based on usage. Asleson feels there is language in the JPA that allows for that type of negotiation to occur. He said the JPA addresses the Advisory Committee being able to do that, and Wright County has the opportunity to address the other Counties at any point in the future. He said there may be different Commissioners representing Wright County next year; he is not as familiar with that situation in Anoka and Sherburne. There could be changes based on the members of the County Boards.
Sawatzke said if it is the intent to have the Advisory Committee have a role in this, the language added in Section 8.04 needs to be removed from the JPA. Otherwise, the decision has to go back to all three Boards and the Advisory Committee could not make the decision. At some point, he felt Sherburne County may realize they are subsidizing as well, although not to the point that Wright County is. Sawatzke stated the Advisory Committee cannot change the funding formula with the language of Section 8.04 being what it is in the proposed JPA. Russek said as long as there is the 180-day out clause, he is fine with the JPA. Asleson said the original JPA locked the three Counties into a five-year commitment. The proposed JPA has been changed and includes an out clause.
Mattson asked how the five-year term of the JPA relates to the hire of the scientists. Russek said that term will offer more stability in an effort to attract more qualified candidates. It provides a five-year commitment to continue the operation of the Lab. That is what Anoka is looking to so they can offer the position to qualified DNA specialists.
Thelen asked Asleson for his opinion on whether Section 8.04 will impede Wright County in evaluating the formula based on a more fair and equitable distribution of costs. Asleson said the language in Section 8.04 was presented in this fashion because the attorneys didn’t want things to be open ended and unclear. The language was added because it was seen as a shortcoming in the original JPA that there was not a funding formula. He said the formula can change in the future, but they would need to amend Section 8.04 of the JPA. Wright County’s choices would be to withdraw by giving the 180-day notice, not to enter into the JPA, or to continue to lobby for change. He restated that the membership of the Committee is going to be different at some point in the future so there may be that opportunity for change. Sawatzke said with the revision, the Advisory Committee cannot create change so it would be all three Counties that would have to approve of a change. It could not be a vote of the Advisory Committee.
Thelen called the question on the motion to approve the JPA for the Tri-County Crime Lab. The motion failed 2-3 with Sawatzke, Thelen and Mattson casting the nay votes. Russek said he is no longer part of the Crime Lab Advisory Committee. Russek said he does not like to see this happen as Wright County has time and money invested in the Lab, but that is what three of the Commissioners want. He said that Wright County will no longer be part of the JPA. Sawatzke thinks it is time for discussion with the other two Member Counties. Russek said he and Hagerty tried. Sawatzke said Russek and Hagerty were addressing the Advisory Committee, not the County Boards. Sawatzke said the Advisory Committee does not approve the JPA.
Sawatzke moved to send a motion to Sherburne and Anoka Counties asking them to reconsider the funding formula for the Regional Crime Lab, based on some measure of fairness that does not exist in the current one. The motion was seconded by Mattson. Mattson asked whether Sawatzke is referring to the County Boards of each Member County. Sawatzke said the motion is for the County Boards of each County to meet and have that discussion. Currently, there is only one Commissioner from each County on the Advisory Committee. Wright County’s Commissioner representative is Russek and he carried Wright County’s vote to the Advisory Committee. Sawatzke said there are four other Sherburne County Board members and six other Anoka County Board members. Russek said that at the Advisory Committee, Sherburne indicated they like the funding formula the way it is. Russek felt their entire Board will uphold that position. Sawatzke said maybe the other Commissioners do not understand they are paying more than their usage. Thelen clarified that the motion is to hold a joint meeting with the other Counties to review the funding formula. The motion carried 4-1 with Russek casting the nay vote.
A Committee Of The Whole Meeting was held on 5-29-12. At today’s County Board Meeting, Russek moved to approve the minutes. The motion was seconded by Mattson. Sheriff Hagerty asked whether the Joint meeting with Sherburne and Anoka Counties to discuss the funding formula will be held in July. It was felt the meeting would have to be held in July because the three Boards will have to authorize the meeting at their respective Board meetings. The motion carried 5-0 to approve the minutes:
I. Discussion & Presentation On The Tri-County Regional Forensic Lab.
Sheriff Hagerty said the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the original, five-year Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) for the Tri-County Regional Forensic Lab, coming due February, 2013, and the hire and retention of Lab personnel. With a small pool of qualified candidates for specific positions in the Lab, it needs to be shown that the Lab is on solid ground and moving into the future. The objective of discussion today is to educate the Board on the Lab, the accomplishments, the setbacks, and the vision of where the Lab is going.
Sheriff Stuart presented material on the Lab (attached). The Tri-County Regional Advisory Board recently received an expanded version of the material. The goal is to make sure all stakeholders understand the Lab and its functions and have an opportunity to dialogue. The goal is long-term networking with the three Counties and reaching out to other law enforcement agencies.
Sheriff Stuart indicated that there is a growing demand for forensic laboratory services. It is recognized that DNA, Drug Chemistry, and Latent Work are vital areas for maintaining safe communities. There are things that the Lab will process that the State’s BCA Lab will not accept due to their workload and criteria. The BCA serves 87 counties. Sheriff Stuart recognized the three County Boards and the former Sheriff’s involved with the Lab JPA on their insight to recognize the need for regionalization and to reach out and establish collaborative efforts. The Lab has drawn attention not only in the State but in the Midwest. As the Lab moves forward with DNA, he said it has drawn the attention of Scotland Yard. It is a highly specialized arena that is well networked.
Sheriff Stuart had the opportunity of being the Project Manager for the Lab during construction. He was also selected by the MN Sheriff’s Association on the Forensic Lab Advisory Board for the Governor. He said it has been an incredible learning curve and opportunity.
A meeting was held previously with Hennepin County to look at a Quad County merger. At that time, it was deemed not to be fiscally responsible. This may be an area pursued in the future as the Lab achieves accreditation and they look to other partners or avenues to enhance cost sharing.
Sheriff Stuart said Erchal Springer is a highly experienced Lab Director, who was hired in June, 2011. The national trend is toward specialized scientific leadership in the scientific arena. A Quality Assurance Manager was also hired in May, 2012. It is critical to have this experienced leadership and a core of experienced scientists. It has brought the Lab to a new level. Previously, college graduates were hired at less cost. It was realized that there is not a large difference in cost to hire experienced scientists but there is a difference in the quality. Lab protocol includes peer review, so the Lab needs to be fully staffed with experienced scientists. Sheriff Stuart said as the Lab moves into DNA, they will have the ability to determine priorities and how things are processed. The long term goal is to remove suspects from communities to reduce victimization.
The proposed plan includes confirming the commitment of the JPA member Counties and expanding the JPA. Sheriff Stuart said the JPA has been reviewed and modified by the County Attorney’s Offices of the three Counties. The plan developed in 2006 was to have the laboratories be three deep in staff. They are now ready to proceed with this. Quality assurance measures are in place and the policy manuals are complete. Recruitment for DNA scientists will be very specialized and the Lab needs to provide assurance to the candidates that the positions will be long term. As they move forward, the Lab will pursue remedies for potential backlog issues. Some of these backlog issues relate to processing of items that the BCA will not accept. The Lab will continue to pursue and obtain accreditation. Meetings will be held with each County Board. Outreach efforts will be expanded to local agencies, elected officials, and citizens. Marketing programs will also be considered for other counties. The goal is to ensure that partners to the JPA have the opportunity to understand and ask questions about the Lab. For the time period of 2008-2011, the Lab has been under budget by $579,844 cumulatively.
Sheriff Stuart went over the proposed timeline based on the proposal approved by the Tri-County Advisory Board. The timeline includes:
• Begin the hiring process for a DNA Technical Lead, two fully-trained DNA Forensic Scientists, and a Drug Chemistry Scientist - April 2012. Employment to begin for the Scientists in the fall, 2012.
• DNA Instrumentation purchased and received-Fall, 2012 (Appx. $300,000, Anoka County funded).
• Validate DNA Instruments, Prepare DNA SOP’s, etc.-Fall, 2012 through Summer, 2013.
• Enhance Forensic Expertise in LP Section-2012 through 2013.
• Prepare for ASCLD/LAB Accreditation-2012 through 2013.
• Fully Functional DNA Lab (If hire fully trained-Fall, 2013) *Separate from Accreditation.
• Begin Hiring Additional Latent Print Forensic Scientist-Spring, 2013.
• Additional LP Scientist Begins Employment-Summer, 2013.
• Full Compliment/Fully Trained & Functional Drugs & LP Labs (If Fully Trained)-Fall, 2013.
• Achieve ASCLD/Lab Accreditation-Winter, 2013-2014 (Dependent on ASCLD/Lab Availability & Schedule).
• Receive Approval for Connection to CODIS-Spring, 2014 (Dependent on FBI Availability & Schedule). (CODIS = Combined DNA Index System)
• Tri-County Lab Eligible for Grants-Summer, 2014.
• Any Delay in Approval of the JPA will impact the timeline by a proportional period.
Commissioner Thelen questioned whether the budget material provided includes the hire of a DNA Technical Lead, two DNA Forensic Scientists, and a Drug Chemistry Scientist. Sheriff Stuart said it does. The position titles of Criminalist and Forensic Scientist are used interchangeably. The current and proposed Lab organizational charts were presented with the primary difference being that all laboratories would have three scientists (for turnaround time and peer review).
The proposed personnel plan totals $1,149,385 (Anoka $721,009; Sherburne $181,948; and Wright $246,428). The grand total, including the proposed operating plan is $1,594,793 (Anoka $969,794; Sherburne $259,473; and Wright $365,527). The proposed plan adds one more position than what was predicted in 2007 when a rough guideline was developed. The 2012 actual budget for the Lab is $1,135,866 (Anoka $712,529; Sherburne $179,808; and Wright $243,530). The 2011 budget (as predicted in 2007) was $1,242,054. Sheriff Stuart commented on how close the 2012 budget is compared to the projected 2011 budget.
Sheriff Stuart said the Anoka County Board has approved the process going forward. The Tri-County Advisory Board, with representatives from all three member Counties, has approved the process going forward. As part of the effort to reach out to all stakeholders, he said they feel a commitment by the Wright County Board is critical. He said this is destined to succeed. Stuart said the Lab impacts far beyond DNA, drugs chemistry, or latent prints; it has an impact on the three counties as a whole. The Board has the commitment of the three Sheriff’s and the Advisory Board to see this succeed. The goal is to have this Lab reflect positively on each of the Commissioners.
At the conclusion of the handout overview, the County Board asked questions.
Sawatzke questioned whether there is a need to amend the JPA and also what the original dates of the JPA are. He understood that the Lab was to be into DNA long before there would be any adjustment of the JPA. Sawatzke referenced Sheriff Stuart’s discussion of the economics of the Lab and the statement that the Lab is $580,000 under budget. He questioned whether this is due to a number of things not being implemented in a timely manner and because those expenditures have not been made. Sheriff Stuart stated that is partially correct. The largest part of the savings is personnel related, but there have also been efficiencies. There are areas that are under budget. Along the way, there was a push to hire the DNA personnel. Sheriff Stuart said he was not involved at that point but had that been done, they would be no farther along than they are today and the money would have been spent. Sawatzke asked about the original Agreement and why there is a need to amend it. Stuart said the original Agreement was for five years with an expiration of February, 2013. He is unsure whether it is self-renewing. The opinion of all three counties was that there were enough new faces at the table to revisit the wording. In addition, some of the original language of the JPA was specific to new construction and that was updated. The reason for the request to move forward with the revised JPA at this time versus next February is that they want to move forward with accreditation as a DNA lab. He felt it would be unfair to reach out to this shallow pool of very specialized people in the DNA arena to offer them a job that could only be promised through February.
Sawatzke asked about the Amendments to the JPA. He felt the JPA includes allowance for an extension. Sheriff Stuart said it is ultimately an extension. Asleson stated that he did not have the original JPA available at today’s meeting. He has been kept abreast of the proposed changes by Sheriff Hagerty. A lot of the revisions relate to cleaning up the language references to things that will happen, the request to the Legislature for funding, and the construction process. At the time that Asleson worked on the original JPA (2007) prior to receiving funding from the State, the Lab had not been constructed. Many of the changes relate to cleaning up that type of language. The main change deals with the term; the proposed language reflects the term would be from the approval date through February, 2018. There may also be some changes which relate to making things more efficient in terms of operation. The basic structure of the three Counties and the Advisory Board remains in place.
Sawatzke brought forth discussion on how the Lab may be more appropriately funded based on usage as opposed to the current funding by population. Asleson’s understanding is that the funding will remain the same with the revisions to the JPA. If there is a change in the funding mechanism, wording changes would be required.
Sheriff Hagerty said there was an Advisory Board meeting several months ago which was attended by Russek and representatives from the other County Boards involved in the JPA. At that meeting, different funding formulas were discussed and it was the consensus to remain with the population based funding. They did not want counties holding back on sending items to the Lab because of a usage based system. They do not send unnecessary items to the Lab. Hagerty said the three Police Chiefs in Wright County have toured the Lab and one is reluctant to utilize it until the Lab has received accreditation as a DNA lab. Hagerty said discussions have occurred in the past with the Wright County Board on funding formulas. They discussed this at the Advisory Board level. The consensus by that body is to remain with the population formula, and the Sherburne and Anoka Counties are committed. He felt the Wright County Board has more knowledge of the Crime Lab and all but one of the Commissioners was seated at the time it was planned. He would have concern if Wright County waited to renew the JPA, as they would be educating up to three new Commissioners on the Lab. That could cause a delay in the DNA accreditation. Hagerty spoke highly of Springer and his contribution to the Lab. He feels they need to continue forward with accreditation and attracting quality applicants.
Hagerty referenced a Legislative Day held at the Capitol a few years ago where discussion occurred on regional training centers. Former Governor Tim Pawlenty encouraged regionalization. Sheriff Hagerty feels that is what was done with the Lab. If the JPA is abandoned or not renewed, he views it as a setback for public safety in Wright County. Hagerty said the seriousness of crime has changed substantially in the last ten years in Wright County. He provided a comparison of the Crime Lab to the Medical Examiner. As an example, he did not think the County would want to go back to using an ER doctor after an arson case involving a death. When a crime is committed, citizens expect to have the person found. The Lab needs to get into the DNA database; otherwise, it is a stand alone unit. It would be like having a stand alone fingerprint unit. The Jail rosters include many repeat offenders, but many people travel through Wright County as well. He referenced the triple homicide case in Brooklyn Park. The person was in Wright County committing a crime last fall and was placed in the Wright County Jail. Hagerty said it would have been nice to arrest this person sooner. He is now an inmate in Hennepin County. Hagerty said the more he learns about the Crime Lab, the more he feels it is needed.
Sawatzke said he is not debating the importance of the Lab. He said it is not fair to suggest that because something is needed that the funding mechanism is reasonable. Wright County can be a partner but he feels funding needs to be discussed. Wright County is funding close to 25% of the Lab costs. The Lab reports reflect that in many categories, usage by Wright County is less than 10%. Some categories are as low as 2%-3% and Wright County is paying 23-24%. Sawatzke said this is not fair to the Wright County citizens. He referenced a comment made by Hagerty on not sending things to the Lab. He said if something is not sent to the Lab, it is not a valuable piece of evidence. They should not hold back on sending items because of the effect on usage. Sawatzke stated the reality is that Wright County should not be paying more than its utilization. As services are most likely paid for after the fact, he did not view it as a complicated procedure. Minimally, a compromise should be considered where funding would be based half on population and half on usage. Hagerty stated that the Sherburne County Attorney sends all of their drug confiscations to the Lab to verify the type of drug, no matter if they have an arrest or not. Wright County does not do that. Sawatzke asked whether Wright County should be paying to subsidize Sherburne County. Hagerty said this was discussed at the Advisory Board and the consensus was to keep the funding based on population.
Russek stated that at the Advisory Board Meeting, he brought forth discussion on the funding mechanism. Sherburne and Anoka Counties support the population based funding. Sawatzke stated that all three Counties must agree to the JPA terms. Anoka and Sherburne can’t agree to the Agreement and make Wright County sign. He brought up the idea of providing services to other counties. He asked how fair it would be if Hennepin County or another entity uses the Lab and they pay less than Wright County, just because Wright County is a member of the JPA. Sawatzke did not have the usage data available at today’s meeting, but asked Sheriff Stuart if Wright County is paying approximately 22%-23% and in some instances only using 2%-4%. Stuart indicated that he did not have the data in hand but agreed that most of the time the figures are disproportionate. Discussion at the Advisory Board came down to having the service available to everyone in the County. If a series of large-scale crimes occurs, the Lab is available.
Speaking on behalf of the Advisory Board, Stuart said the decision came down to whether they are partners or users. If it is a user based fee, then suddenly they are not partners but users. That would involve a different set of responsibilities. Stuart feels the larger picture is that he wants the Lab to be available to every potential victim in the three Counties.
Sawatzke referenced the East Central Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Anoka County has the largest population in that organization but is not the largest bed user. The fee is based on the number of rented beds. Under that Agreement, he did not feel it would be fair to ask Anoka to fund four times as much as Wright County as they are four times larger. In the last few years, Wright County utilized more rented beds than Anoka County and paid more based on that usage. He could not envision what Anoka County Commissioners would think if it were suggested that funding for the Detention Center would be based on population. He did not feel it would have been well received and he would not suggest it. There are many times when Wright County has been part of a team, as in the Detention Center, where fees are based on usage. Sawatzke said there could be a time when Wright County would experience a string of crimes where the usage would be higher. However, the history shows (based on 4-5 years) that Wright County’s usage is always lower than what is being paid. Sheriff Stuart said the City of Buffalo wants to hold off for accreditation and that will change usage. Sawatzke said that Buffalo is 10% of the County’s population so the numbers may increase by 10%.
Sawatzke said he does not want to appear critical. He supports the concept and the Sheriff recommends moving forward. However, he did not view it as fair for Wright County to continue to subsidize, to a great degree, the operations of Anoka County year after year. Thelen said she supports that. She understands that they are selling this because of the Advisory Board’s recommendation to base it on population. Thelen said this is the time for Wright County to express that they would like the funding formula looked at. Sheriff Stuart said he was aware of this concern, so he brought it to the attention of the Advisory Board. It was discussed at length and ultimately, it is his role to sell what the Advisory Board agreed upon.
Sawatzke said for five years, Wright County has accepted that and not asked to change things. They have the right to change the JPA by vote. Anoka County has a financial interest in keeping the formula the same and Sherburne County may not see the savings. Sawatzke viewed this as an opportunity to voice the concern. The five years has provided a chance to see how the numbers played out, and he felt they haven’t been to Wright County’s advantage. Time has also shown that the costs are getting much larger. He felt the time is right to inject this discussion into the process and that funding based on usage would be the best way. As an individual Commissioner, he would be willing to compromise on a portion of the funding. Thelen compared this to the fire contracts held with the townships and cities. In that situation, the city wanted the costs based strictly on population and the opportunity came to address that when it was time to renew the contract.
Russek said at the Tri-County Regional Advisory Board meeting, he brought up funding based on usage for the Lab and it was not supported. Sawatzke said in review of some annual/quarterly reports, he recalled the data showed that Wright County was paying a substantially greater percentage than its share.
Norman said the JPA is between the three Counties (Anoka, Sherburne and Wright). There are numerous police departments within those Counties. He asked if they are considered non-members of the JPA. Sheriff Stuart said law enforcement brings their voice to the table when issues are discussed. Norman said his question relates to the dollars involved. Stuart said the cities are covered by the County’s Agreement. Norman said the JPA speaks to non-members, and felt that must refer to counties other than the three in the JPA. Sawatzke said that could also include cities outside of the three-County area. Norman said the JPA is currently written for the three Counties but asked whether any police department within the three Counties is covered, so they are not viewed as non-members. Stuart said that is correct; every citizen and entity within the three Counties is covered. Norman asked how many non-members the Lab is providing service for. Sheriff Stuart said none. Mattson questioned whether there is a service fee for those situations. Stuart said there has not been one established as the Lab has not arrived at that point. It would be appropriate to market for that at the time the Lab is accredited, and it is important to have the accreditation in hand prior to marketing. The three Counties in the JPA would realize those cost saving benefits. Mattson asked whether the Lab can charge prior to accreditation. Sheriff Stuart was unsure. Norman said the JPA speaks to fees for non members and states the Anoka County Board of Commissioners sets the fees in consultation with the Committee. There is evidently not a fee schedule in place at this time. Stuart said that is correct. Russek did not feel there has been a request yet as the Lab is not accredited. That is something they are working toward. Once accredited, he thought there would be requests from other counties. Sawatzke asked whether anyone has expressed interest in the service that is currently being offered. Sheriff Stuart said that everyone is awaiting the accreditation. Sawatzke referenced services for fingerprints and drugs and questioned whether anyone is interested in those services. Stuart responded that they have not marketed those services nor have they been approached.
Thelen asked for the expectation of today’s meeting and whether there is any specific action being requested. Sheriff Stuart said that today’s purpose is information sharing, which is something they would like to do more often as part of this partnership. Any delay in moving forward with the updated JPA will affect timelines. Sherburne County is concerned with getting the JPA approved as they wanted DNA up and running yesterday. It is an aggressive timeline and the hope is that DNA can be up and running as soon as possible.
Thelen said she understands they wanted to hire for the positions already. She asked if there is a secondary plan and whether that includes hiring in 2013. Sheriff Stuart could not speak to that specifically, but each County voiced slightly different desires at the Advisory Board meeting in March. From his standpoint, Stuart wants to see the communication continue to be open and ultimately move forward. He was unsure how the Lab would be impacted in the long run if the process were stopped, especially in the recruitment arena. He empathized with Sawatzke’s comments and feels they are valid points.
Mattson said the cost to the taxpayer is $2.94/year to take care of crime and keep criminals off the streets. Thelen responded that there are other things that the $2.94 could be spent on. She had concerns as the budget process has not started and she is unsure of the budgetary issues that will be discussed. She supported addressing the JPA in that forum. Sheriff Hagerty said discussion at the Advisory Board involved types of crimes and formulas. Those at the meeting supported staying with a population based fee for a variety of reasons. It does provide the service for every Wright County citizen at a cost of $2.94. Looking to the future, Hagerty can see sending more evidence to the Lab. For example, they had a source code issue with the Intoxilizer 5000, which is the current equipment they use to detect alcohol. Wright County has about 2% of the State’s total DWI’s. In the State there are about 35,000-40,000 DWI arrests per year, and Wright County generally has about 500-800. Even with the defense attorneys challenging the make up of the Intoxilizer 5000, they continue to use the equipment so Wright County is not sending a lot of blood and alcohol samples to the Lab for toxicology on blood/alcohol contents. A new intoxilizer is coming out. He thought Anoka sent quite a few to the Lab and Sherburne sent most of theirs. A few years ago, the Lab experienced a setback on the calculation issue on a urine sample. One case was compromised. Hagerty restated that he does see their usage going up once the Lab is DNA accredited. He thinks there is agreement that the service and vision are there and that DNA is a necessity in crime fighting efforts. The funding formula is what the Wright County Board is questioning. He said that discussion occurred at the Advisory Board meeting and there was not much support for a change.
Sheriff Hagerty said Wright County has a Major Crimes Unit, which has evolved over ten years, that handles cases such as burglaries and the Ruth Ouverson homicide. The Unit works with the Crime Lab. Fortunately, there are not a lot of those types of crimes in Wright County. Hagerty can see sending more things to the Lab (i.e., blood, urine, and drug samples). In the past, evidence has not been sent to the Lab because of pending plea bargains. Hagerty understands that Sherburne and Anoka Counties have approved the renewal contract. He was unsure how to proceed if the Wright County Board does not have an appetite to fund based on population.
Sawatzke said the message should be brought back that Wright County is interested in being a partner but would like usage to be a mechanism in the formula. If Wright County’s usage increases, he said Wright County will pay more. If the usage does not increase, then Wright County pays what it should pay. The Wright County Sheriff’s Office has indicated that it is important to have this service. It is up to the County Board to decide how much to fund it. A lot of money has been spent thus far on the Lab. Sawatzke questioned the previous process on fingerprints. Lt. Todd Hoffman said they used the BCA for this process. Sawatzke asked whether it is faster to go through the Anoka Lab for this service or the BCA. Sheriff Stuart said it is faster for members of the JPA. Typically, they haven’t opened the door to others. He said the priority needs to be the three member Counties. Sawatzke said this priority is an advantage. Fingerprinting services used to be free through the BCA but they waited in line with everyone else. Services that were free six years ago now cost Wright County an additional couple hundred thousand dollars, but processing is not as fast. Sheriff Stuart said a study was completed in 2007 or 2008 when the information was presented to the State. The actual dollars that were attached to a reduction in further victimization were obviously deemed to be cost effective, with getting the criminals off from the street and eliminating further victimization of citizens.
Sawatzke feels Sherburne and Anoka Counties need Wright County to be part of the JPA. Wright County wants the service. However, he did not feel Anoka and Sherburne alone can determine the funding formula. Sheriff Stuart said he did not disagree with what Sawatzke was saying. Hagerty and Russek attended the Advisory Board Meeting when this decision was made. Sawatzke said early discussions on the Lab left the impression that the Lab would be funded by fees for service. Apparently the three Sheriffs decided that population would be an easier funding formula and were able to convince the Advisory Board that was the way to go. Sawatzke felt it was a surprise to Wright County, who felt they were going to pay on usage versus population. Sheriff Hagerty said one of the concerns was budgeting for the Lab. With a usage fee, a budget figure would not be able to be determined until after the year was completed. The population is known. Stuart said Hagerty is correct in bringing forth that the budget is a large issue. Hypothetically, he asked if the Lab would close if all three counties didn’t have evidence to process in a year. Sawatzke said the Lab should close down if there is no evidence. Stuart also questioned if there is a reduction in services, would the Lab lay staff off to the point where it is not functional. That was the direction of the discussion at the Advisory Board, and it was decided that the Lab needs solid numbers for budgeting. Sawatzke said funding based on usage will not reduce the amount of money for the Lab; it would change the formula from where it came. Stuart said there would be a constant fluctuation. Sawatzke said some type of formula would have to be worked out.
Thelen wants to see what other competing needs there are during budget sessions. She does not like continuing things just because the County has been doing it. She has not been involved with the Lab since it started so does not have the full grasp of what services Wright County is receiving versus the other two Counties. Apparently Wright County has demanded the services of the Lab much less than Anoka and Sherburne Counties. Thelen asked for an idea of what the services include (short versus long turnaround of evidence). Springer asked if her question relates to how many DNA samples are being sent to the BCA. Thelen referenced Hagerty’s comment that Anoka and Sherburne send most everything in (i.e., drug testing). She asked about their utilization and whether it takes the same amount of time no matter what is sent. Springer said a typical drug case takes about a day to process. It is received, tested, a peer review is completed, and the report is written. Rush cases have been completed. This is limited to the number of staff they have. Currently, the Tri County area sends about 750 DNA cases to the BCA Laboratory. Springer did not have the data on hand to show how many cases there are per County. Those types of cases involve sexual assaults, assaults, burglaries, homicides, and other cases. They have estimated three full-time DNA scientists would be required to complete the case work that originates from the Tri-County area in a one-year time period. He said that is for DNA work alone.
Russek said the funding discussion was outvoted two to one at the Advisory Board Meeting. He said the new JPA should be presented and it will be up to the Wright County Board to vote on it. Russek said he is not going to try to negotiate any more. They should present a new JPA and the Board could make a decision when all five Board Members are present.
Sheriff Hagerty in looking to the future, he felt DNA will change things and the usage may go up for Wright County. Hagerty hopes it doesn’t. The current Wright County Jail inmate count is 82, which is down slightly. That is good news. Although the Crime Lab is not necessarily a deterrent to crime, he said it is a selling point to citizens, especially in the three communities that also pay for police departments. Hagerty did not want to see the funding formula ruin the current arrangement. He understands the usage question. About 16% of the lab work is dedicated to Wright County even though Wright County funds 25%. They are looking for a resolution so that they can hire staff for the Lab. Accreditation is the goal. Sherburne County wants to meet that goal and is looking at out clauses to the JPA if certain dates are not met. Hagerty is confident those dates will be met and that it will be a smoother five years than the past five. The Advisory Board discussed a longer JPA, but Sherburne County wanted to remain with five years. Hagerty has been keeping Asleson up to date with changes, especially with regard to language that would allow Sherburne to opt out of the JPA. Hagerty was unsure that another Advisory Committee meeting would result positively on the subject of the funding formula.
Sawatzke said it is not the Advisory Board’s decision. The Advisory Board can make recommendations, but it is up to the County Boards to approve the JPA. Thelen said there is a funding difference of about $90,000 ($160,000 versus $250,000) if the formula is based on use versus population (16% of the usage and Wright County paid 25%). She suggested exploring whether Sherburne and Anoka Counties would split that difference. Hagerty was unsure of the process to do this (i.e., who to go back to, whether it would be up to the individual County Boards). Russek restated that the JPA should be provided to the County Board. The County Board can then make their decision. In response to Russek, Sheriff Stuart said Sherburne County has already signed the JPA.
Recommendation: The revised JPA should be presented to the Wright County Board for approval.
(End of 5-29-12 COTW Minutes)
Russek made a motion to acknowledge receipt of a letter from the City of Maple Lake requesting $12,500 in funding for the Maple Lake Library and to refer the request to the Budget Committee for review. The motion was seconded by Mattson. Norman said the last time the City of Maple Lake requested funding for the Maple Lake Library it was referred to the Budget Committee Of The Whole as part of the annual budget process. He questioned whether that is the intent of the motion. Russek confirmed that it is. The motion carried 5-0.
Lt. Hoffman stated that with regard to the Tri-County Regional Crime Lab, the current JPA is in effect until February, 2013. What was presented for approval today was an amendment to that JPA. He wanted the Board to know that things will still be sent to the Lab. Hoffman wanted that clarified as Commissioner Russek said that Wright County is no longer part of the Lab. Russek said he is no longer part of the Advisory Committee, that he resigned his position. He will let someone else argue with them at the next meeting.
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Emerg. Physicians Prof. 436.02
Evident Crime Scene Products 159.00
Fibernet Monticello 359.80
Frontier Precision Inc 399.98
Granite Electronics 1,532.79
Greenview Inc 11,311.40
Helena Chemical Company 118.63
Hillyard Inc - Minneapolis 3,407.79
Husom Electric 350.00
Kandiyohi Cty Sheriffs Dept 112.10
Laplant Demo Inc 948.13
Loberg Electric 1,278.10
M & M Express Sales/Service 187.35
Marietta Aggregates/Martin 968.19
Martin-McAllisters Cons. 800.00
Mcquay International 4,281.24
Menards - Buffalo 184.93
Metro Group Inc/The 7,287.76
Mini Biff LLC 492.75
MN Counties Computer Coop 1,000.00
MN Dept. of Labor & Industry 600.00
MN County Engineers Assoc. 150.00
MN Elevator Inc 13,731.31
MN Monitoring Inc 8,933.00
MN Safety Council 1,355.00
MN State Bar Association 1,705.00
MN Supreme Court 987.00
Morries Parts & Service Group 1,641.97
Office Depot 1,016.62
Open Text Inc 1,657.89
Pearson Bros. Inc 115,359.91
Redwood Biotech Inc 168.75
Russell Security Resource Inc 869.79
Schermann/Robert D 255.00
Schmidt/Donald M 196.50
St Paul Area Assoc. of Realtors 114.00
Star Tribune 869.50
Suburban Emergency Assoc.PA 214.90
Total Printing 157.64
Triple H Aviation Inc 1,260.00
Vance Brothers Inc 2,398.54
Veolia Environmental Serv. 15,445.01
Veolia ES Solid Waste Midw 303.84
Waste Management-TC West 1,902.74
Wright Hennepin Electric 347.15
29 Payments less than $100 1,391.87
Final total $373,619.31
The meeting adjourned at 10:41 A.M.
Published in the Herald Journal July 2, 2012.