PARK RAPIDS -- Law enforcement and jail issues were most numerous among topics the Cass and Hubbard county boards discussed at a joint meeting Friday at Lori Lea Lanes in Park Rapids.
Jails in both counties are at capacity, commissioners said.
Hubbard Commissioner Lyle Robinson said that county cannot wait for a regional jail and will have to look at adding onto its 24-bed facility soon.
Cass Administrator Robert Yochum said the current 50-bed Cass jail building was constructed strongly enough to permit adding two more floors.
However, state requirements for services in a much larger jail would substantially increase Cass' operating costs, because more inmate services would be required.
Inmate programs, basketball courts and other services would drive operating costs beyond what the county wants to pay, he said.
Hubbard commissioners were reluctant to believe the state will fund a regional jail after the last session when they said they saw the governor and legislators view giving tax rebates more favorably than funding regional jail construction.
The whole legislative agenda was decided last session in conference committee by a few people and the governor, not by the Legislature, Yochum responded.
Cass Board Chair Jim Demgen noted services already available at Brainerd Regional Treatment Center could serve inmate needs a lot more economically than any county could individually.
"When (the Legislature) gives $100,000 for planning, they damn well better support the results," Demgen added of his expectation legislators will help fund regional jail construction in the future after granting planning funds.
The two boards also discussed the potential for using buildings at Ah-Gwah-Ching in Walker for secure or non-secure inmate incarceration.
Hubbard Board Chair Floyd Frank suggested at a future joint meeting the boards might tour Ah-Gwah-Ching to see what facilities and services are available there.
Hubbard Commissioner Cindy Dudley said she expects treatment to be required for inmates in the future rather than incarceration without those services.
To locate law offenders at a facility where social services and treatment programs already are available makes sense, she suggested.
Maybe one county could offer one type of service and another county another type of service, so one county would not have to treat all types of offenders, Dudley added.
On law enforcement dispatching, Cass has a newer computerized system than Hubbard and has added electronic fingerprinting.
Hubbard Commissioner Swede Nelson noted electronic fingerprinting gives an instant record accessible to many law enforcement agencies at once and can save lives.
Dudley said she would like to see one centralized law enforcement records system used by all agencies in the state to make access to records easier in a shorter time.
Currently, different departments in the state use a variety of systems. Not all are compatible or interconnect. Some, like the computer system Hubbard has, will not be updated in the future.
On the issue of an agreement between Leech Lake Reservation and counties overlapping it, Yochum said county attorneys in Cass, Hubbard, Beltrami and Itasca are reviewing an adaptation of another agreement now operating.
White Earth Reservation and Becker, Mahnomen and Clearwater counties have a mutual aid law enforcement contract that appears to be working well, Yochum said.
When Leech Lake area county attorneys finish their review of the adaptation and county boards approve it, the document will be forwarded to Leech Lake Reservation for the tribal council to consider.
Leech Lake Reservation officials have wanted tribal officers to enforce only regulatory laws such as traffic offenses. Overlapping counties want enforcement on all laws interchangeably by reservation and state, county and city officers.
The White Earth agreement more closely mirrors the counties' views.
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