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Commission takes no action on city’s transport proposal

The Walworth County Commission, Friday, Dec. 28, heard a proposal by the City of Mobridge to transport arrestees to the Faulk County Jail if that is the plan the county wants to adopt.
Mobridge Chief Finance Officer Heather Beck and Police Chief Shawn Madison, presented a proposal to the commission that the city council had approved at the Tuesday, Dec. 18, special meeting. Beck told the commission Walworth County Commissioner Marion Schlomer had approached the city about taking over the transport duties, if Faulk County Jail were the facility the county determines it would use, should the Walworth County Jail be closed.
The proposed plan included, since most arrests are made in the City of Mobridge, that the Mobridge Police Department take over the transport from the city to the Faulk County Jail with the county funding the transportation. It would be a three-year contract with a six-week notice of early termination from either entity.
Schlomer had worked with several city officials on putting the plan together. He met with the city council to discuss the proposed plan before it was discussed at the commission meeting. Beck told the commission the proposal includes wages, uniforms and the benefits for four new officers. The proposal also included the transfer of two vehicles from the county to the city for transportation.
The proposal is estimated to cost $271,183 per year. Beck told the commission the city would also set up a separate fund to track all expenses and for revenue paid to the city from Walworth County.
The city will submit a monthly financial report to the county and send a representative to a commission meeting once a month to give that report.
Commission Chair Scott Schilling asked if the three-year contract was set in stone. Beck said a three-year deal would help in hiring new officers.
“That is how the council approved the plan, but I guess we would be open to other ideas,” she told the commission. “It would be difficult to hire more certified officers if we had only a one-year contract.”
She said she and Madison were at the commission because the city was willing to do what it could for the taxpayers of the City of Mobridge and of Walworth County.
Commissioner Kevin Holgard said the proposal would be taken into consideration as part of different options for the county while they were deciding what to do about the jail.
“That is the reason we asked so at least we have some numbers in front of us so we can make a decision,” he said. “On our behalf, I thank you.”
Walworth County Sheriff Josh Boll then said he felt he should have been included in any negotiations with the City of Mobridge as he is responsible for the jail and the prisoners.
“I think I should have been a part of this discussion,” he told the commission. “I am the chief law enforcement officer of the county. Why am I not getting the four additional employees to transport?”
Commissioner Tom Houck, who attended the meeting by phone, asked if Mobridge would be taking the responsibility for transporting prisoners from the Faulk County Jail to Walworth County for court dates. He asked if the transportation of prisoners from Faulk County to Yankton or other evaluation locations were included in the low, low cost of $200,000.
Madison told the commission it was his understanding that as the arresting agency, the MPD’s responsibility was to transport those arrested to the jail facility. He said he thought that Faulk County had proposed that they would purchase a bus for court transportation but if Mobridge would do that transportation, the proposal would have to be modified.
“Mental holds and transports to Yankton, those are not considered arrests,” he said.
The commissioners said they would need to get more information on who would be responsible for those transports before any decisions were made.
“This is just a rough idea we were asked to come up with as an option if you needed to close your facility,” Beck told the commission. “If you find it is not in your best interest, we are not going to be upset. We are just here to be of assistance and do what is right for the taxpayers.”
Schlomer said he understood that the county would use Mobridge as their main transport agency and have Faulk County transport prisoners for court.
Walworth County Auditor Becky Krein asked if Mobridge was responsible to get prisoners to the jail facility, why would the county pay them to transport the prisoners.
“I personally don’t believe anyone could transport them cheaper than we could ourselves,” said Houck.
Holgard told the commission this information was a tool to help the commission make decisions when it came to the Walworth County Jail.
“That is what we asked them to do so we have the numbers in front of us,” he said. “At least we have an idea of what it is going to cost us.”

Jail facility
Boll told the commission he had included in their information packets another proposal for renovation of the current facility. In the new proposal, the 1999 addition would be renovated as part of the housing of prisoners, instead of the sheriff’s office. He said in the original $5.8 million renovation proposal, a new addition would included a 32 to 36-bed facility. The new proposal would use that facility for bed space and cut the renovation cost to $5.4 million.
Holgard told the group they all know there is a problem with the existing facility and considering contract proposals from the City of Mobridge and from Faulk County are part of finding a solution.
He said of the Mobridge and Faulk proposals, he is looking at them as more of an insurance policy to buy the commission more time to make the right decisions.
“We might find out it is way cheaper to transport out,” he said. “We may have a little tweaking to do a few things, but that is the reason for looking at those contracts.”

In other business the Walworth County Commission:
• Approved automatic supplements to Walworth County Emergency Management: $25,429, Walworth County Highway Department $94,874; advertised supplement for flood repairs Walworth County Highway Department $400,000 from grant funds received.
• Approved final contingency transfers of the following amounts to various departments: $264 to elections; $40,702 to court appointed attorney; $902 to poor relief; $6,846 to mental health; $1,618 to the mental health board and $14,597 to Extension.
• Heard Walworth County resident Lyle Perman ask the commissioners to approve changing road signs on several roads in the county that are currently known by other names or are confusing because of their number designation, such as County Road 144 and Highway 144.
• Approved holding the first meeting in January on Tuesday, Jan. 8.
– Katie Zerr –