May 21, 2022

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

It’s time for a new, safe, Grant County Law Enforcement Center

BY C. A. RAY

Editor

It has become popular to make a big deal about honoring our heroes. Firefighters, emergency medical personnel, military, and law enforcement we consider heroes because they  put their lives on the line for our public safety. 

And they are heroes, no doubt about that.

Yet I wonder how deep that veneration goes. Sure, we will buy a $1.50 bumper sticker proclaiming  “Honor our Heroes.” But would we buy that bumper sticker if it cost $100 instead of $1.50?

I think not.

Here in Grant County, our Sheriff’s Office has been housed in the Grant County Courthouse since its inception. That was fine when every town had its own town cop and the Sheriff’s Office had a Sheriff and one deputy. When major crime consisted of an occasional break-in or a drunken spat between a married couple.

There are no town cops anymore and our Sheriff’s Office, all 1,100 square feet of it, now houses 11 law heroes… Including deputies, dispatchers, the Sheriff and Chief Deputy, plus rooms full of electronic communication equipment. Sure, the department still deals with break ins and fights between couples, but now the perpetrators are usually drunk, hopped up on meth, and carrying guns, or knives, and perfectly willing to use them.

For the first time in history, Grant County has had two murders in the past 12 months.

In normal times, the public would say, “We need to help our law enforcement heroes by giving them facilities fit to meet the challenge.”

Law enforcement offices need to be secure, suspects should not be using the same restrooms for urine samples as the general public, witnesses should not have to wait for an interview alongside the suspect, or other witnesses, and suspects should not walk by the very dispatcher responsible for his or her arrest, to be booked and photographed, and for gosh sakes, each deputy needs their own secure workstation to enter data and do their paperwork.

Ten years ago, the county proposed a plan that would put many county offices,  including the Sheriff’s office, in a new faculty downtown. The public voted it down and the county was forced back to the drawing board and built  an office building, without the Sheriff’s Office attached. 

The estimated cost of a new, modern, safe, Sheriff’s Office under this plan, was around $2 million.

Now it is approaching $10 million.

So the commissioners scramble for alternatives, such as a remodel of the ground floor of the courthouse, and adding an addition to the west side. 

This is the silliest idea I have ever heard. I would hope the public would be outraged to think the commissioners would be willing to trash all the work that has been done on the courthouse, to make it historically accurate and aesthetically beautiful, just to deface it with an addition onto the west side.

After all, I remember when the Grant County Veterans Memorial Committee asked to install a memorial on the west side of the courthouse and were turned down by the county commissioners because it would destroy the historical integrity of the building.

Why are our County Commissioners dawdling on this issue? Of course no one wants to pay more taxes, but with every day of delay,  the price rises yet the need for a modern, safe law enforcement center does not lessen. In fact, it grows more urgent.

Of course public servants need to listen to how the public feels about an issue, but I do not believe they should simply put their finger in the air, see which way the wind is blowing, and then take that position.

If this were true, why hold elections?  Why not just run a poll on every issue and the majority wins?

Public servants are elected to listen to their conscience, then make tough decisions.  If the voters disagree, they can vote differently in the next election.

It is time Grant County truly honors its heroes by providing them with a safe work place and the knowledge that the taxpaying public cares about them.

Your County Commissioners need to unite behind a new LEC, then they need to hear support from you. It would help if they knew that you support building a new LEC in the location in back of the courthouse as well. They need to hear you are willing to put your money were your mouth is.

And then the commissioners need to get out there and do what they need to do to make it happen, for our future, for our heroes.