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Disparity in contract settled between Swift, Big Stone counties

BENSON -- A disparity in how the cost and services are shared between Swift and Big Stone counties for the sentence-to-serve program has been resolved.

The Swift County Board of Commissioners approved the new two-year contract at its meeting Tuesday.

The two counties have shared the sentence-to-serve program since 2005. Coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, participants from both counties are picked up every day and driven to work sites in both counties to perform community service tasks. Those jobs often include work in city and county parks and other public facilities such as community food shelves.

"They've done a lot of work," said County Auditor Byron Giese. "It's been working excellent."

Ever since it was started, Swift County has paid for two-thirds of the cost of the program.

It was assumed that two-thirds of the participants' time would be spent in Swift County doing needed tasks there, Giese said.

"We wanted that much time," he said, which was one reason the county agreed to pay a greater share of the cost.

But after reviewing quarterly reports, it was discovered that Swift County was only receiving about one-third of the services during the last couple years.

"We didn't think that was fair," Giese said.

The disparity wasn't intentional. "It's just something that happened," Giese said.

When the new contract came up for negotiations this spring, Swift County brought up the issue. It was discussed and resolved.

Having additional time from the sentence-to-serve participants will help clear out the backlog of projects that need to be done in the county, said Giese.

Swift County was notified a week ago that it had been approved for flood disaster funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It's not known exactly how much money the county will receive.

The county experienced about $200,000 in damages to county and township roads because of spring runoff.

The county is obtaining bids and quotes for the repairs. Some townships have already repaired the roads. The federal funding will be used to reimburse those costs, Giese said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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