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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Police Commissioner Craig Stromme defends LEC actions

  • In an effort to bring further understanding to a complicated matter, Devils Lake Police Commissioner Craig Stromme attended the Ramsey County Commission Tuesday afternoon and helped explain some of the difficulties the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center is facing.
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  • In an effort to bring further understanding to a complicated matter, Devils Lake Police Commissioner Craig Stromme attended the Ramsey County Commission Tuesday afternoon and helped explain some of the difficulties the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center is facing.
    Stromme answered the commissioners’ questions about the costs involved in having juveniles detained locally. He explained the history behind the decision to stop housing juveniles which was recommended by the previous administration.
    The current administration has met with considerable criticism for a number of personnel decisions, the costs of transporting juvenile detainees to and from Grand Forks and numerous other morale issues.
    Ramsey County Commission president Mark Olson started off the discussion by making a statement calling for moving forward. He said he was looking forward to the LEC Board meeting on Wednesday morning to learn what has been done since the last meeting. As far as he knew, despite being told that the facility is now fully staffed, they were continuing to pay a considerable amount of overtime.
    Stromme volunteered to discuss the costs involved in reinstating the juvenile program, the limitations of the present facility and the challenges those limitations cause. It was his claim that in order to reinstate the juvenile program four additional employees would need to be hired and trained specifically for working with juvenile offenders. The cost would be approximately be an additional $300,000.
    That is above the additional funding increase the facility needs as a whole to continue operations. Any significant increase is problematic because the county is maxed out on the mills it’s allowed to levy.
    Although the LEC is philosophically a multi-county facility, it was revealed Tuesday at the Ramsey County Commission meeting than Eddy and Nelson counties have never housed their juvenile offenders in the facility, therefore only Benson, Towner and Ramsey County fully utilized that service. A larger percentage of the costs for the facility is borne by Ramsey County. Although some of that cost is being alleviated by a recent increase in fees charged for 911 service, however, it is not sufficient to cover all the facility’s financial needs.
    It was the consensus at the meeting that everyone wants what is the best for the facility, that no one wants to see it close, “We need to find a solution,” Commissioner Myrna Heisler summed it up.
    “There’s got to be a way that we can find some innovative ideas to win back some of that lost revenue within the parameters of what is required by  law.”
    She suggested that perhaps some sort of a community subcommittee could be valuable in coming up with creative  staffing, personnel and revenue solutions.
    “If the facility needs to be remodeled to adequately house juveniles, maybe we need to look at that,” was another suggestion.
    Page 2 of 2 - Stromme identified three areas that need improvement at the facility and those were training, morale and communication.
    The commission thanked Stromme for attending the County meeting and answering their questions. “This is a huge problem and time will tell how it is resolved,” Olson said.
    “We need to keep moving forward to keep the facility running without endangering anyone,” Heisler agreed.
    The topic of the problems at the LEC was introduced at the county’s meeting at the outset by a member of the audience, Jessica Gillum, who made a five-minute statement calling for action to identify and find solutions to the on-going troubles at the facility. She was adamant that Denny Deegan had nothing to do with the facility’s problems and said she would use the media or whatever means available to get the “truth” out about what was really going on.
    Commissioner Ed Brown asked Gillum if she had provided the other LEC board members from the other counties with the information she claimed to have. He explained to her that Ramsey County has two members of their commission sitting on that board, but that all five counties are represented and they needed to know “what was going on.”
    She admitted that she had not.

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