High marks awarded to Cass jail

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Sheriff Tom Burch reported Tuesday Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) biennial inspection of the county’s jail at Walker showed 100 percent compliance with mandatory operating guidelines and 96.7 percent compliance with essential (building) guidelines.

Jail Administrator Joel Norenberg said the deductions cited are because the building now is 26 years old. It is just wear and tear, he explained.

He said flooring should be replaced in some areas. Tables and chairs are worn out. The interior needs repainting.

Norenberg reported the DOC inspector told him that any remodeling in the jail would trigger a rule that requires a county to meet some stricter standards than when the Cass jail was built. It could mean adding more bathrooms in the dormitory area, he said citing one requirement.

It was unclear during Tuesday’s discussion where the point would be that making improvements would trigger DOC’s definition of a remodel, thus requiring more major work.

The board asked that the potential repairs be added to the capital improvement plan update the commissioners will consider by a May 6 public hearing.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will provide a $58,849 grant to Cass County’s boat and water safety program in 2014.

Wilkinson Township donated $250 to the Lakes Area Dive Team, which provides search and rescue services for the county’s lakes.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety provided a $53,000 grant through Northeast Regional 2 Way Radio Board to Cass County to pay for radio equipment which enables the new ARMER communications system to connect with cell phones and also provides training for sheriff’s employees.

St. Louis County administers the radio board funds and distributes money to 15 northeastern Minnesota counties including Cass and Crow Wing.

Burch reported he has declined at this time a proposal from Motorola to upgrade dispatch center consoles.

He said at the time Cass began converting to the ARMER radio system, Motorola had told him they did not plan to update equipment or programs for the consoles until at least 2018.

However, now Motorola has announced plans to introduce new consoles and software by 2016 at a cost of over $400,000.

“What we have is not worn out,” he said. In his reply by email to Motorola’s emailed announcement, Burch wrote: “…Motorola should not be able to hold us hostage every time they feel an upgrade is necessary.”

Jamie Richter, public health director, reported county nurses provided an average of 5.5 hours per week to see inmates at the jail in Walker.

Care for inmates at the Walker jail from doctors and hospitals cost the county $32,915 in 2013. Public health nurse services cost $14,814. Medications cost $12,111. Medical supplies cost $1,877.

These costs do not reflect medical costs for inmates Cass housed at facilities in Crow Wing, Hubbard or any other county jail.

Richter said county nurses try to determine whether inmates are eligible for Minnesota Care or medical assistance, so insurances can cover some of the inmate health costs.

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