St. Francois County took another step Tuesday morning toward combining the Terre Du Lac Police Department with the sheriff’s department.
The county commission issued a draft of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would be signed by the county commissioners, the sheriff and the president of the Terre Du Lac Property Owner’s Association.
Presiding Commissioner Harold Gallaher explained the progress so far.
“We’re working on it, we’re getting it done; we’re close,” he said. “There are some blank lines in there, and it’s primarily the cost that the county would be reimbursed each year for this service.
"Primarily, that’s labor. That’s based on history, so we are going to have to get their financial records to find out what that is so that can fill in these lines on the contract so we can sign them.
“The original contract called for a 5% ceiling per year of cost increase. I didn’t want that, because there’s no incentive for anybody to not spend money if there’s only a 5% maximum cost increase, just spend what you want. I had it changed so that the cost increase would be actual. If they save money, they can come down. There’s an incentive to be very functional with their money. In government, that’s not normal.”
Gallaher also explained they were still determining how they were going to insure Terre Du Lac’s police cars, noting that they may have to lease them from Terre Du Lac to obtain the necessary insurance coverage.
The MOU is a one-year term automatically renewable unless one party declines, or the funding is not paid in full.
County Auditor Louie Seiberlich asked, “Why did the insurance company reject the police department?”
Gallaher explained that there a couple of claims on their insurance history, but it probably wasn’t the full reason and the county’s insurance company will look into the situation.
Seiberlich continued, “I think I would be curious to know why they are not insurable.”
Sheriff Dan Bullock interjected, “I don’t know if that’s why, but the insurance company is telling Terre Du Lac you’re not incorporated, you’re not a city, and you cannot have a police department, although they have had one for 45 years.”
Seiberlich added, “And they’ve been paying premiums for this coverage.”
Gallaher noted that Terre Du Lac is a non-profit and not incorporated.
Bullock again added, “They say you can’t have a police department.”
County Clerk Kevin Engler wanted to make sure that there are no unfunded liabilities that would come up.
“If there’s going to be some agreement on any lawsuits that would arise covering the period of time prior to our taking over that have not been filed yet,” he said.
“We have to find that out. I know it looks like a one-way deal. In reality, if they drop their police department, and their funding of it, Sheriff Dan is still going to have to cover those people; they’re in this county. We’re going to have the coverage without the potential revenue to help pay for part of that coverage.”
Gallaher noted that if it falls to the sheriff’s department as is, the response time will go up.
Engler added, “Immensely.”
Gallaher stressed that the goal of the agreement is for the county to break even on the costs.
Bullock clarified the scope of the agreement. “We are not really taking over the Terre Du Lac Police Department. The police department has been dissolved. The cars are sitting, the uniforms are turned in, nothing happening out there. We’re providing police protection for Terre Du Lac right now. The idea is for us to hire additional deputies to be assigned to Terre Du Lac area, not just to go out there and take over the police department.”
Seiberlich noted that all the costs will be absorbed by Terre Du Lac.
Gallaher added, “The entire thing. Every dollar. It’s going to be dicey the first year to get it all, to figure out exactly what that’s going to be. But, then the second year, we’ll have a history.”
Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson asked Bullock if he had any concerns about the agreement.
Bullock answered, “I have had, and we’ve mostly ironed all those out.”
The county is looking at planning a special meeting later in the week to finish and sign the agreement with Terre Du Lac.
In other matters, the commission discussed the tax holiday for deferred taxes.
Engler explained that most small businesses that he talked to are electing not to make the change to not withhold Social Security since it was announced 10 days ago that it would have to be made up in January.
“Whatever you didn’t withhold now, would have to be doubled,” he said. “I recommend we don’t do it. Our system is set up to withhold Social Security, I think a lot of our workers would not like to double up their Social Security withholdings next January.”
Gallaher added, “Just about time the Christmas bills come in.”
Engler continued, “Short term great, but long term not prudent.”
The county decided not to defer Social Security withholdings.
Engler then updated the commission on election issues. “The seventh of next month is the last date you can register to vote for the November election.”
Engler observed that more than 100 absentee ballots have come in the mail and 75 come in electronically over the weekend.
“There’s a push, if you have Facebook, go to this website and it will automatically register you,” he said. “Two weeks from today we start voting, sending out and voting in our office.”
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at email@example.com
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