“It’s been working fantastic for us. We don’t need to maintain a squad car or schooling, so now we know exactly how much law enforcement is going to cost us. It’s a lot easier to budget now,” said Jerry Frericks last week; Frericks was Wabasso’s mayor when the city council signed an agreement with the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement duties.
“It’s been working fantastic for us. We don’t need to maintain a squad car or schooling, so now we know exactly how much law enforcement is going to cost us. It’s a lot easier to budget now,” said Jerry Frericks last week.Frericks was Wabasso’s mayor when the city council made a decision to let its one police officer go, and signed an agreement with the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement duties.“With Local Government Aid cuts to small communities, it was not a hard decision to make,” Frericks said. “We were budgeting between $65-70,000 a year for our police department. Now we pay the Sheriff’s Department about two-thirds of that.”The savings go straight into making up for Wabasso’s cuts in the state’s Local Government Aid for streets and infrastructure.When the idea of not renewing the police officer’s contract was first being thrown around, Frericks visited the county commissioners to see if they were open to a deal with the Sheriff’s Department.When the commissioners were willing to try it, the Sheriff got involved, and agreed to a six-month trial.“The Sheriff’s Department was looking at possible cuts itself, so it benefitted both of us,” Frericks said.Redwood County Sheriff Randy Hanson said, “They pay us $40 an hour for 15 hours a week. Part of the reason this works for us is that with adding only one community for 15 hours, I don’t have to add more staff.”Hanson agreed that with the state cutting Local Government Aid, small towns have been exploring different ways to save funds on law enforcement.“In some parts of the state it’s done at a much larger scale. In Wright County, the sheriff’s department has contracts to do most of the police work in the county,” Hanson said.He added, ““Obviously, if we need to, we’ll go to Wabasso (outside the covered 15 hours).”“It was a relatively simple process,” said Frericks. “We had to figure out how many hours to contract for, and we’re able to readjust the contract every six months.“The Sheriff’s Department gives us a print-out of their activity here once a month for the city council to review.”During the contracted hours, a deputy is always within the city limits.“Most of the time the deputy is looking for traffic violations,” said Frericks. “If kids are getting rambunctious before school, the deputies will sit there in his car and just make their presence known.”In addition to patrolling, the deputies help out with other duties such as fingerprinting children at the schools.“The hours are sort of random,” said Hanson. “There’s no set schedule, although if there’s an event going on, we’ll be there.”“Response time hasn’t been an issue that I’m aware of,” said Frericks. “Usually the officer is out patrolling, and people never know when the officer is going to be around.”“With a police officer who worked regular hours, people knew when they could horse around.”Hanson agreed: “Random seems to work best, since no one can figure out when we’re going to be there.”“We’re pretty fortunate in Wabasso,” said Frericks. “Our citizens are all pretty much law-abiding. People look out for each other.”Is the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department open to similar arrangements with other towns?“It’s up to the communities to decide what they want to do,” Hanson said. “Most communities like having their own police officer. I have to emphasize I’m not out promoting it. If we take on more towns, we’d need a staff increase.”“I find it hard to believe there aren’t more small communities not going to (this arrangement),” said Frericks. “It’s very easy to maintain, and the Sheriff’s office has been fantastic to work with.”