Summer brings Wright County Sheriff’s Office to area lakes

For Wright County residents who have endured a long, cold winter and a brutal spring, the onset of summer has been a long time in the making. With summer finally here, thousands of people every weekend will be hitting area lakes and rivers.

They won’t be alone, as members of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office will be in and around the water as well.

Sheriff Joe Hagerty said that with summer comes boaters who are out to have a good time, but it’s his job to make sure that the good times don’t endanger the lives of the boaters themselves or those on the lake with them.

“We have a lot of water in Wright County,” Hagerty said. “We have 200 lakes and several rivers, including the Mississippi River, the north and south fork of the Crow River and Clearwater River. We have a recreational services division and we patrol all those waterways. Given the long winter we had, there are a lot of people looking to finally get out and enjoy the lakes and rivers we have in Wright County.”

Hagerty said that public safety is a key component to the county’s water patrol, adding that having numerous lake associations in the county is helpful in making sure safety rules are maintained.

“We’ve been fairly fortunate in that we haven’t had a lot tragedies on our waterways other than people falling through ice,” Hagerty said. “I think one of the reasons we’ve had so few problems during the summer months are the numerous lake associations we have in the county. They’re our eyes and ears out there and they’re more apt to report to us when they see something going wrong. But, that being said, we have a lot of officers out on the water during the summer to have a presence to let boaters know that we have enforcement out there.”

Hagerty said that most people on the water are in a good mood and not looking for trouble and there isn’t the kind of boater volume that often result in problems that require citations.

Most Wright County lakes don’t have the kind of high volume like Lake Minnetonka has in Hennepin County or the St. Croix River in Washington County. As a result, it’s easier to monitor the lakes and stick to their primary objective – keeping water enthusiasts safe.

“I think the people here for the most part are mindful that they’re sharing the water with others and almost all problems we do have are related to alcohol,” Hagerty said. “Our goal is to make sure people stay safe and most boaters understand that because they’re just looking to have fun, spend a day on the water and get home safely.”

In items on the June 3 agenda, the board:
* Accepted the building committee minutes that laid over discussion of the disposition of a paved roadway at the county compost facility. The cost estimate to repave the road would have a price tag of $300,000. Using the road course for officer training has saved the county an estimated $14,000 a year, but the road is in such poor shape that it needs replacing beyond cosmetic repairs. Commissioner Pat Sawatzke brought up potential alternatives, such as potentially using the MnRoad area on I-94 or large parking lots that could simulate the current road course. The item was laid over to seek out more cost information for the different alternative options.
* Approved a resolution modifying the joint powers agreement with the Central Minnesota Emergency Services Board. The changes were primarily cosmetic changes, including a name change of the organization from the Central Minnesota Regional Radio Board. The board deals with radio communications, including the 911 phone system. The board was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 disasters when emergency responders had difficulty communicating with one another because they were operating on different frequencies. Since then, coordinating emergency communications efforts has been undertaken nationwide. Some of the changes to the JPA are designed to deal with “new generation” 911 communications.
* Scheduled the big letting date for a highway department salt shed in Maple Lake for 9 a.m. Thursday, July 10.
* Authorized signatures on a 2014 federal boating enforcement supplemental grant for $8,875. The grant funds are used to provide additional patrols on county lakes and rivers during the summer months.
* Referred discussion of the wage placement for the deputy county assessor to the personnel committee.
* Approved a pair of city requests to purchase tax-forfeited land. One is in the City of Monticello and the other in the City of Waverly. State law permits cities to acquire tax forfeited land if the purchase is for a public use.
* Set a tax forfeit committee meeting for 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 10 to review the list of tax-forfeit parcels to be placed up for public sale and to set asking prices for the available parcels.
* Approved a condemnation resolution for the one unsigned parcel of right of way along CSAH 12, which will be undergoing construction between Hwy. 55 and CSAH 37. When a right-of-way agreement can’t be reached between the county highway department and landowners, condemnation resolutions are required to acquire the parcel. Condemnation proceedings are typically a last resort to acquire right of way when negotiations fail to reach an agreement.
* Waived its 30-day comment period on a proposed Tax Increment Financing district in the City of Rockford. The purpose of the TIF district is to help jump start the process of getting businesses to open stores in a retail mall in the city.
* Authorized the renewal of a seasonal 3.2 malt liquor license for the Clearwater Lions Club in Clearwater Township.

Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.