Probation security system gets approval

NEW ULM – By a 3-2 vote Tuesday, Brown County commissioners approved the purchase and installation of a wireless personnel security system for the Probation Department building.

Commissioners Dennis Potter and Andy Lochner cast dissenting votes. Lochner said he preferred to wait until the next calendar year when a $112.75 sales tax would not have to be paid.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl disagreed. “It sounds like we need this,” he said.

The Probation Department’s 2013 budget includes $3,000 for the purchase of a security system.

ECS Electrical & Communication Specialists, Inc., Mankato, provided a $3,042.75 bid for the project. Funds come from supervision fees.

The security system has a wireless panic button that can be used throughout the department. When a button is triggered, an announcement can be made over the department intercom indicating assistance is needed. Brown County Sheriff’s Office dispatch may be alerted by phone message indicating there is an emergency and immediate assistance is needed at the probation building.

A security system was requested due to an increasing number of calls to law enforcement for assistance with potentially dangerous offenders in probation offices.

Brown County Assistant Probation Director Evonn Westcott said probation employees have called law enforcement 116 times in the last six months.

“The last call was for a person who tried to hurt herself with a sharp object,” Westcott said. “Other calls were about people bringing in weapons like a loaded handgun placed on my desk or about large knives brought into the office.”

Safety issues arise as probation officers are alleging felony level offenders are violating pre-trial release conditions and facing possible prison sentences. Agents deal with a variety of people with mental health issues, anger, and under the influence of mood altering chemicals.

Bids were requested from three alarm companies including New Ulm Telecom, which referred Probation to a specialized alarm company. Another alarm company toured the Probation building to provide a quote and declined further correspondence. Two more alarm companies did not respond to bid requests.

Commissioners unanimously approved:

Adding a 25-hour per week child protection/children’s mental health position and 32-to-38-hour family-based services position. The positions were needed for Brown County Family Services to fully carry out its PSOP (Parent Support Outreach Program). PSOP is an intermediary step beyond prevention where there are indicators that abuse and abuse neglect may have taken place.

“Staff is frustrated. They can’t keep up,” Brown County Child Family Supervisor Tom Sandberg said.

Ordering a new tandem snowplow truck from the state bid for an International cab and chassis and Towmaster equipment at $186,983 with a $34,000 trade-in allowance for a 2003 Sterling tandem truck.

Accepting a $10,000 grant Minnesota Local Road Research Board Local Operational Research Assistance Program, administered by the University of Minnesota agreement to fund a study of the CSAH 3 project.

An $11,375 Fiscal Year 2014 Families First of Brown County Grant Agreement to partially fund Teen Court. Westcott said Brown County funds less than 50 percent of Teen Court, about $9,000 a year.

A 90-day contract extension, (Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 2013) with the 5th Judicial District for a Drug Court Coordinator. A $24,087 reimbursement amount covers all salary, benefits, travel and training costs. The long-term plan is for an 18-month extension to begin Jan. 1, 2014.

A Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Minnesota and Brown county to provide local extension programs and employ county extension staff from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2014. County costs include a $49,900 .75 full-time equivalent (FTE) program coordinator position in 2014 with a 1.5 percent pay increase from 2013. The University of Minnesota provides a support staff position with a 1.5 percent pay increase from 2013.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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