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Martin County to hire assistant attorney

FAIRMONT — On Tuesday, Martin County Commissioners approved a motion to authorize recruitment for an additional attorney for the County Attorney’s Office. The need is due, in part, to the addition of prosecution duties for cities in the county as well as an increased case load over the years. County Attorney Terry Viesselman explained the issue.

“Most of the funding for a new attorney will come from those [city] contracts,” he said. “So it’s a good deal for the county, it enables us to add another attorney and afford it.” Viesselman pointed out that approximately 90 percent of the cost for a new attorney will be covered by the city contracts.

Turning to the increase in case loads, Viesselman explained the issue, providing some sobering statistics.

“Martin County has always been somewhat of a hotbed for crime, in part because we’re the crossroads for two major highways. Statistics show how crime has increased in the last nine years. Felonies increased 83 percent, gross misdemeanors increased 47 percent, and the major crime total increased 66 percent.

“A lot of that is due to drugs,” he continued. “Because of that increase in drugs, it’s created an increase in our CHIPS (Child in need of Protection or Services) cases.”

Information provided by Viesselman showed just how big of an increase he was talking about. Cases of dependency or neglect showed an increase of 195 percent from 2010 to 2019, while termination of parental rights cases have increased 367 percent, primarily due to meth use in families. Juvenile felonies were also up 53 percent.

Turning to other matters, the board chose to take the matter of consent for refugee resettlement off their agenda, due to a federal injunction. Viesselman explained the matter.

“A federal court issued an injunction prohibiting the executive branch of the federal government from implementing that policy of requiring communities to agree to taking refugees or not,” he said. “It’s kind of a moot point and until that all plays out I don’t think there’s any need for the board to take action at this time.”

The board also heard an update from County Engineer Kevin Peyman concerning the recent blizzard.

“I think we came through fairly well for as bad as they were predicting,” he said. “It was mainly a visibility issue and it was so cold that the salt wasn’t going to do anything in that weather.

“So we stayed out late on Friday to try and get everything covered once before the winds picked up. On Saturday we came out and tried to do the main roads, but it just wasn’t very safe because the plows couldn’t see so we weren’t out very long. The we did start early Sunday and it was about five to six hours we were out and got everything knocked down.”

In other action, the board:

— Approved a Prosecution Contract with the city of Dunnell. The city will pay $150 per hour for attorney time, commencing January 1, 2020.

— Approved the creation and posting of a new Park Caretaker/Highway Maintenance Specialist position.

— Approved the hire of Tanya Rathman as Jail Administrator for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

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