McCook towns nearing new law service

SALEM -- The president of the Bridgewater City Council said the town will not take part in a proposed countywide law enforcement program, citing financial concerns.

SALEM -- The president of the Bridgewater City Council said the town will not take part in a proposed countywide law enforcement program, citing financial concerns.

Four other towns in the county, however, have all signed a contract with the McCook County Sheriff's Department and will move ahead with plans for countywide patrols, to begin Aug. 1.

"It was just the expenses," said Todd Letcher, president of the Bridgewater City Council. "What we have works now, so why mess with something that works well?"

Bridgewater will keep its part-time officer, James Van Sickle, because it's more economical, according to Letcher. Bridgewater would have had to pay $35,750 for 1,300 hours of law enforcement under the agreement.

The city's law enforcement budget for 2006 is $28,665.


Canistota, Montrose, Salem and Spencer all have signed the law enforcement contract with the McCook County Sheriff's Department.

Costs for each town are:

n Salem: $74,360 for 2,704 hours of law enforcement. The town's 2006 law enforcement budget is $64,240.

n Canistota: $42,900 for 1,560 hours. Canistota's 2006 budget is $46,753.

n Montrose: $14,300 for 520 hours. The town's 2006 budget is $39,500.

n Spencer: $14,300 for 520 hours. Spencer's 2006 budget is $9,000.

The entire projected cost of the countywide law enforcement is $181,400 per year. Under the previous system of each town providing service on its own, the total cost for for Salem, Canistota, Bridgewater, Montrose and Spencer for all of 2006 would have been $188,158.

At present, each city has its own department, with the exception of Spencer, which is too small to support a department, according to McCook County Sheriff Eugene Taylor. The only city participating in the countywide law enforcement that still has an officer is Canistota, and he has been given notice that the department will dissolve as of Aug. 1. Montrose had a part-time officer and Salem had a full-time officer, but both of those employees left, causing the timetable for the countywide law enforcement to be moved up, according to Taylor.


In order to cover the share Bridgewater would have paid for law enforcement, McCook County will likely have to pay the extra share, Sherman said.

"At this point, we will have to. The cities are locked in with the hourly rate and amount of hours," she said. "There's nowhere else to go for it at this point."

The McCook County Commission meets today and will discuss updates to the contracts, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the courthouse in Salem. Mark Norris, chief deputy for McCook County and organizer of the countywide law enforcement effort, said the meeting today should deal with Bridgewater rejecting countywide services. Norris will take over as McCook County sheriff in January.

Taylor will retire in January, according to Sherman.

Norris said the sheriff's office has spent around $34,000 on equipment such as trucks, firearms and uniforms, in preparation for beginning countywide service. Three vehicles are being outfitted with equipment such as cages and being detailed, Norris said.

Three officers from Vermillion, Crooks and Mitchell have been hired as deputies already, Norris said. They will patrol the entire county on a rotating shift. Norris would not yet say who those officers are.

The officers will not enforce cat and dog ordinances, Norris said.

"The dogs and cat issue was brought to the (cities') attention from day one," he said. "What we'll do is refer (residents) to their city's auditor and have the city maintenance folks do that. We will not be chasing dogs and cats -- I don't have time to chase cats."


It remains to be seen what other differences in law enforcement coverage are noticed by residents of McCook County as the new infrastructure goes into place, Norris said.

"It's going to be a kind of learning experience for everyone as we go," he said.

McCook County previously had a countywide law enforcement structure in the mid 1970s and '80s, according to Sherman. Countywide law enforcement is becoming a much better option and is used more in South Dakota now that having individual police departments in each city is becoming more costly, according to Norris.

"Maintaining a department is expensive right now," he said. "It appears to be more cost efficient for the county to provide law enforcement. The training is one issue -- now cities have to send officers to academy for 12 weeks. A lot of places became revolving doors."

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