The Meeker County Board and Sheriff Brian Cruze met in an extension of the Dec. 3 board meeting to discuss jail operations following a 2018 Department of Corrections finding that the jail here is understaffed by five employees.

Cruze noted that three additional personnel had been hired and two more would be hired in 2020 to meet DOC requirements.

The Meeker County Jail had an average daily population of 33 so far in 2019, down from the average census of 41 and 40 in the two previous years

Statistics presented at the Dec. 3 meeting showed that while jail expenses had increased in 2018, they had shown a significant decrease so far in 2019.

Cruze noted that while the jail’s total expenses for 2018 to date stood at $1,588,354, that was the lowest in the six-county area and lower than both the expenses in Renville and McLeod counties.

In keeping with the DOC regulations to add five staff members, Cruze said his recommendation was for the department to continue operating as it has, but with five additional personnel, and to continue to create opportunities to board out-of-county prisoners.

The 2020 jail budget includes $275,000 in expected revenue from jail boarding.

In other action:

It was reported that Aquatic Invasive Species Management grants for Meeker County will total $105,925 in 2020.

Among larger grants will be $12,500 to lakes Ripley, Manuella, Clear, Mud Lake in Forest City Township, and $8,000 grants to lakes Koronis, Washington and Jennie, plus $6,500 to Minnie Belle

Phil Schmalz, public works director, presented to the board the five-year construction plans of his department through 2024.

Commissioners accepted a quote for $6,800 from Gabrielson Tree Service for tree removal on Judicial Ditch 16 in Danielson Township.

County Auditor Barb Loch reported that citizens in 10 county precincts will be voting entirely by mail in the 2020 elections, an increase of four over the previous number.

Precincts with mail voting in Meeker County will be Cedar Mills village and township, Cosmos city and township, Danielson, Darwin, Ellsworth, Forest City and Harvey townships, and the city of Kingston. Residents of these precincts can also cast ballots at at the auditor’s office in the courthouse.

The county board signed the annual medical services agreement with Dr. Richard Searl and the contract with Spanish interpreter Carmen Patino.

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