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Martin County ready with legal offer

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioners this week heard from County Attorney Terry Viesselman, who presented several contracts to provide prosecution services for a number of small cities in Martin County.

Cities included are Trimont, Ceylon, Sherburn/Welcome and Granada. The board approved the proposed contracts, which the cities can choose to adopt.

“They’re all set for one-year terms, and they automatically renew each year unless the parties want to do something different,” Viesselman said. “I did that automatic renewal so we don’t have to bother the governing bodies each year to get approval for them.

“What I did was offer each of the cities a choice whether they wanted to go with an hourly rate of $150 or an annual rate at a set amount. The set amounts I proposed to them are based on (attorney) Jim Wilson’s billings for the last four quarters to the different cities, because it varies quite a bit. For Granada and Dunnell, they’re so small I just told them hourly because they’re under $1,000 a year.

“With hourly we can’t go wrong, but I prefer the annual just because I’ve done work with the small cities before and if you get a careless driver and you get that one crazy person who will not plead guilty and demands a trial, you can’t not do it. So you go through a trial and all of a sudden you’ve got a big bill and the cities want to know why it’s so much just for a careless driver.”

Viesselman said that if all the cities approve, he will return to the board in early 2020 to present the numbers and likely ask for another attorney for his office, the cost of which is something he believes will be covered by the city contracts.

“If not, it’ll be pretty close,” he said. “It’s a good deal for the county because that’ll pretty much pay for another lawyer, and the total time that we expend on this will not amount to total time for an attorney to have enough manpower to deal with everything else.”

At a meeting this week, the Sherburn City Council opted to go in a different direction, approving a contract with Costello, Carlson, Butzon and Schmit Legal Services to provide attorney services for the city in 2020, at an annual fee of $10,000. At the time of this writing, Viesselman’s office did not have information available on where the other small cities stand, or how Sherburn’s decision will affect the County Attorney’s plans.

Viesselman told commissioners that the services of another attorney is still a looming need for the county in general.

“We need that,” he said. “I think we’re up 66 felonies this year from last year. Just to give some perspective, way back when I started out, we’d maybe get 100 in a year. Now last year was a record and then we’ve gone up 66 this year.”

Viesselman described the reasons behind the rise, and how it is affecting people in the county.

“It’s primarily meth,” he said. “We have a real problem here, and it’s affecting us everywhere. In Human Services with their budget, if there’s meth in the home, we’re pulling kids and it’s disrupting the families and we’re seeing the effects in school. It’s just a real problem in rural America.”

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