Whether or not the City of Sandstone should continue with their contract with the Pine County Sheriff’s Office for a deputy to cover the town specifically 50 hours per week is up for discussion by the city council. 

Members of the council along with Mayor Pete Spartz met with Sheriff Jeff Nelson, County Administrator David Minke and Pine County Commissioners Matt Ludwig and Steve Hallen, to discuss the city’s current contract..

Currently the city contracts for a deputy to focus on the Sandstone community 50 hours per week. These services include routine patrolling within the community, interaction with members of the residential and commercial communities, investigations of all state statute and city ordinance violations and support and assistance of other public service agencies (such as ambulance and fire department). 

Spartz said the city is in no way dissatisfied with the services provided by the sheriff’s office. 

“We are just trying to figure out what is best for Sandstone,” he said. 

One of his main concerns is Sandstone taxpayers are paying twice for law enforcement coverage since they pay both county and city taxes. The city paid $154,700 in 2022 (with $10,000 from the state to help with law enforcement coverage) to have a dedicated deputy five days a week.

Sheriff Nelson explained under the current contract the Sandstone car generally stays in the Sandstone area and will provide limited response to calls outside the area. If that deputy is called out for an extended call, backup is brought in until the deputy can return. 

Sheriff Nelson said the city payments essentially fund a deputy position. Without the money from the city’s contract, a deputy position could be eliminated and Sandstone would have to rely on responses from the broader Pine County area. 

“The contracted hours provide a dedicated squad that is visible in Sandstone. That is the biggest thing that would look different,” said Nelson.  

Nelson said Sandstone residents could notice other differences including: deputies only making random passes through town and the possibility that response times could suffer. He did say however, that since the north office of the department is located in Sandstone, the city could still benefit from that. 

Spartz said, “What the council will have to decide is if the standard service from the sheriff’s department, which is very good, good enough for everyone in Sandstone? Are we happy at that level? Or do we want to continue to have the ice cream on the cake.” 

“If we step away from the contract, I wonder what the shift in perceived safety would be compared to the real response time.”

Sheriff Nelson responded by saying, “The odds are a lot higher, if you have a dedicated officer, that they are going to respond in a more reasonable fashion than if you don’t. It’s like insurance…you pay for it whether you need it or not but, if you need it you are really glad you have it.”

Nelson said, “If it’s a performance issue, I need to know that and I will do my best to correct it if that helps us keep the contract.”

Council Members asked the County Board Members to take a serious look at providing more funding for the Sheriff’s Department. 

The current contract is through December 31, 2023. If either party chooses to terminate the agreement, written notice must be provided no later than Sept. 15 to allow for budget revisions for the following year. The mayor and city council members encourage residents to let them know their thoughts on the subject by either reaching out to one of them, or attending a council meeting.

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