LEC meeting raises more questions than answers

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Rob Johnson directs the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center.

The Lake Region Law Enforcement Center, located in Devils Lake, ND,  was the location and subject of a special meeting the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 19 in the Municipal Courtroom.

The board that governs the LEC met first from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. with guests from a number of commissions involved with the center arriving at 9 a.m.

Chairman Ed Brown welcomed the guests and those commissions that had a quorum present called their meetings to order.

Rob Johnson, who directs the LEC, led off the discussion asking for feedback and questions from those present. He presented a slide show that addressed the rising costs of operating the LEC and the challenges faced in funding it year after year.

Areas of concern included 911 Dispatch funding, personnel and technology needs. The Reentry Center and its staffing needs. Towner County is pulling out of its commitment to utilize and fund 911 as of March 2020, leaving a deficit of more than $70,000 that had been budgeted as revenue for the center. Plus, discussion centered around the aging facility and its needs, immediate and in the future.

Should they consider building a new building? Is the 1973 model of a regional LEC still viable? Would it be better if it were just the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center? Representatives of the Devils Lake City Commission, Mayor Dick Johnson and Commissioner Jack Volk called for an independent agency to evaluate the general operational plan. Are we doing it right? Could a different model be more cost effective? How can we fund the improvements we need to make in the facility and its technology? What’s ahead? What if what we need is a new building? How would that be funded? There were many more questions than answers presented.

Brown and others on the board were receptive to the suggestions presented. County Commissioner Adam Leiphon pointed out the need to define the scope of the evaluation and recommendations for the facility. Few solutions to the present situation were verbalized. However, they were able to prioritize some of the most pressing needs.

First, a new Joint Powers Agreement needs to be developed. With Towner County pulling out, what does that do to the cost share agreement with the remaining political entities? Rob Johnson is going to search for other locations and facilities, like Dickinson, ND, or McKenzie County that have Joint Powers Agreements and use theirs to help draft a new one for the LEC. Board members Dale Robbins, Nancy Marquart and Mike Steffan will help with this project.

Plus Johnson asked those present to search for an agency or some outside resource that could help evaluate what they have now and identify what they may need for the future of the LEC, the Reentry Center, 911 and a 5-year plan going forward.