Supervisors look at the cost of law enforcement contracts

Benton County Service Center

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – As Atkins grows, it will need more law enforcement, according to county officials who met at the Benton County Board of Supervisors meeting, Tuesday, May 4, in Vinton.

While officials agreed on this, they also wanted to make sure the money paid for law enforcement contracts helps to pay the actual expense for providing those contracts.

Atkins currently has 18 hours of enforcement, and was looking to increase this to 40 hours a week.

Benton County Sheriff Tippett said this can’t be done without hiring someone. He also said it couldn’t be done at the current contract price. Officials talked about 34 hours of enforcement. Tippett said stepping up enforcement to 34 hours is an additional $38,896 per year.

Tippett pointed out law enforcement contracts have not made the county money over the years. It went up $1 per hour two years ago. It’s expected to go up by $1 or $1.50 per hour come July 1. He wants to make sure the contract covers the wages. Currently, the wages are not covered anywhere. There is also the expense of the vehicle and training.

Supervisor Gary Bierschenk asked that with the rate that Atkins is growing, if there is any discussion on them getting their own law enforcement. Tippett said they have had that discussion. They have talked and looked. They feel it’s out of their reach at this point to go completely on their own. If the city continues to grow, he can see them getting their own enforcement in five to 10 years.

Belle Plaine and Vinton have their own departments. Urbana has its own department, but also has contract hours with Benton County.

Supervisor Richard Primmer felt it was not fair to county taxpayers to subsidize municipalities with this. Tippett pointed out part of the taxes paid by city residents goes to the county.

County Attorney David Thompson stressed it is the municipalities’ responsibility to provide law enforcement protection for their citizens. Smaller communities such as Mount Auburn and Luzerne do not have the means to do this, so a contract is the right thing to do for them.

Primmer felt the rate of $25 per hour is a token, compared to covering actual expenses.

Bierschenk stressed the need for good law enforcement.

The board approved the current 18-hour contract with Atkins. Tippett will come back to the board again with a proposal for additional hours.

Other business

A Class C Liquor License was approved for MidWest Sips. This is a five-day license. It is a mobile facility and it will be at Kacena Farms for wedding events. It was approved, and restricted to the Kacena Farms address.

A draft permit was approved for Genosource LLC. Land Use Administrator Marc Greenlee said they met the criteria for the Department of Natural Resources to issue a permit. The supervisors have the choice to appeal. If no action for an appeal is taken in 14 days, the permit is approved. Greenlee added that they met Benton County’s criteria a few weeks before. The board agreed they would not appeal the DNR decision, with Supervisor Gary Bierschenk voting “nay.” He also voted against it several weeks ago. However, he said it will be all right. This is for the dairy south of Blairstown.

A commission was set up for redistricting of the supervisors seats. On the commission are Gina Edler of the auditor’s office, Nick Volk to represent Democrats, and Supervisor Gary Bierschenk, Republican. They will work to see that all of the districts are equal in population by changing the district boundaries. By law, the commission has to have been named by May 15, according to Auditor Hayley Rippel. This is for the 2022 election. The board approved the appointments to the commission. They noted population growth in eastern Benton County.

The board approved having Chairman Tracy Seeman sign the contract for a statewide camp meeting with the Historic Preservation Commission. This includes specialized training for historic preservation. It is Oct. 2 at the Van Horne Community Center. Commission members also talked about setting up a registration website. The commission also reported they are having a flea market in Shellsburg on June 12. The rental space money goes to Shellsburg to support their Big Day. There was also discussion on insurance for the event.

The board approved moving having Mona Onken of Social Services supervise Adrieonna Hennings. She was supervised by Sheriff Tippett. Tippett received approval of moving Lydia Close and Leah Larson in dispatch from part-time to full-time. They also approved reposting the position at the access center hub, and moving Hennings from part-time to full-time, where she has been filling since early January. The wage is $22.53 per hour. The board approved this, 2-1, with Seeman opposed,

Global Information System (GIS) mapping work was discussed.

They also had a lengthy discussion on the use of the old transportation building for the weed department for an office, and the impact of that building being in a floodplain. The sheriff’s department currently uses the building, and the weed department is already using it for storage. The board approved use of the building.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.