County honors top cops

By John Holler
Times Correspondent

The role of law enforcement is, by definition, to protect and serve the public. Over the first two full weeks of May, Wright County has been honoring those who are tasked with arresting lawbreakers and looking after them once they are incarcerated.

At the May 8 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, the county adopted a resolution proclaiming May 7-11 Corrections Officers Week in Wright County and, Sheriff Joe Hagerty was scheduled to return before the board at its May 15 meeting to make presentations as part of the May 14-18 National Law Enforcement Memorial Week.

The resolution made at the May 8 meeting honors those who used to be referred to as jailers — those assigned to oversee the prisoner population in county jails.

“Theirs is an important job,” Hagerty said. “Jails are run by sheriffs. In many counties, for years the sheriff would have one of his deputies serve as the jailer. As jail populations grew over the years, we turned over the operation to civilian corrections officers and dispatchers. They don’t have the same duties as uniformed law enforcement officers, but serve a vital role to our operation.”

The week of May 14-18 has honored those who have died in the line of duty. Wright County has suffered more than most counties, losing seven officers in the line of duty, including three sitting sheriffs. Sgt. Annette Habish of the sheriff’s department is part of the county and state honor guards that preside at the funerals of fallen officers. Habish has taken part in two such ceremonies — one for an officer from the St. Louis Park Police Department who suffered a heart attack on duty and a Lake City Police officer who was shot in the line of duty.

“Funerals are really an eye-opener,” Habish said. “It really hits home to you when you see those in the department and the families of the fallen officers. You train for such events, but you hope you never have to do it.”

Habish was expected to take part in the Law Enforcement Memorial Day May 15, as members of her honor guard were scheduled to march a post on “The Thin Blue Line” at the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial in St. Paul. She said the solemn events are part of the job for law enforcement — never knowing when a shift might be your last.

“You have to do your job,” Habish said. “If something tragic happens like it did in Lake City, the rest of the officers have to respond and continue working, as they did when they went after the shooter. I’m sure they’re still struggling with it on a daily basis. It’s hard not to, but that’s part of our job.”

In other items on the May 8 agenda, the board:

  • By a 3-2 vote, approved proceeding with improvements to CSAH 123 in Corinna Township and continuing the process of turning the road back to the township. Commissioners Rose Thelen and Pat Sawatzke voted against the motion, primarily because it has been made clear that the township does not want the road and doesn’t believe the current improvements (a mill and overlay project) will do enough to prevent the township from being stuck with potentially significant future road improvement costs. On May 2, the county held a special board meeting in the township, at which time it was discovered that the construction had already begun. Sawatzke said when the bids were opened at the committee level March 26, it was stated that, if the county and township couldn’t reach an agreement, the project could be stopped. He vented his frustration at the Corinna Township meeting with Highway Engineer Wayne Fingalson, who said he was responsible for the miscommunication that got the ball rolling and the construction begun. Both Thelen and Sawatzke said it’s clear the township doesn’t want the road and opposed the motion for that reason, saying the county should repair the road and keep it.
  • Authorized signatures on a contract with the Minnesota Department of Corrections to guarantee jail bed space for the DOC’s work release prisoners. It is the same agreement the county approved in March, but the state operates on a fiscal year that begins July 1. This contract would run from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013.
  • Approved a construction cooperative agreement with McLeod County for a roadway the two counties share - Wright County CSAH 3 and McLeod County CSAH 2. The bids for the project were to be opened at the May 15 board meeting and it has an estimate of $9.9 million, with almost the entire total being on the Wright County side of the border.
  • Accepted the minutes of the May 8 Tax Forfeit Committee, which was held a half-hour prior to the May 8 board meeting. Two tax forfeit properties were reviewed and given classifications for re-sale at auction.
  • Announced the disbanding of the county’s broadband task force. The task force was disbanded because the county board voted not to subsidize a feasibility study at the March 27 board meeting and that the primary business case for broadband would ideally be developed by individual cities.