County approves mutual aid deal
Tuesday, April 09, 2013 7:00 PM
LAKE TOWNSHIP - Several commissioners still needed convincing that a mutual aid agreement between the Menominee County Sheriff's Department and Marinette City Police was a good idea before giving approval to a document that has been on and off the table for months.
Tuesday night, the Menominee County Board of Commissioners did just that, giving unanimous approval to the document that would protect the county from liability if Marinette officers assisted there and were injured or equipment was damaged. The same protection is afforded to Menominee deputies or officers that helped out in Marinette.
But while several commissioners wrangled with understanding just what kind of help Menominee County would be asked to provide, and who exactly would provide it, Sheriff Kenny Marks made it clear that mutual aid between the cities and counties in the area would continue - with or without the agreement.
A concern Commissioner Jan Hafeman, Charlie Meintz and John Nelson had was that it would not be legal for road patrol officers to work outside the county if their millage funding required them to stay on Menominee County roads.
That question and the concern about wording that called for Menominee County to be able to help in "day-to-day" operations and investigations caused the county board to table approval two weeks ago and request that Marks be available at the meeting Tuesday at the Lake Township Hall.
County Administrator Brian Bousley also was directed to explore the legal issue regarding any use of road patrol deputies in another jurisdiction.
"The road patrol millage (language) specifically states (officers can respond outside the county) in emergencies only, not day-to-day operations," Hafeman said.
"Routine patrol would be problematic," said Bousley, who told commissioners that he had attorney David Stoker read the millage language, and said mutual aid agreements were allowable for the road patrol program for emergencies.
Marks said day-to-day investigations, which would usually consist of drug or robbery cases, are most often handled by the department's detective, who is paid out of the general fund.
When a drug dog is needed, it is Sgt. Tina Nast who usually responds, and she also is paid from the general fund.
But depending on the situation and the time factor, road patrol deputies could be called upon to help in the city of Marinette, as they do in Marinette County, the city of Menominee and neighboring counties in Michigan.
Meintz said he didn't want to see Menominee County deputies tapped for patrol in the city of Marinette, and cited recent articles he said he had read about staffing and equipment concerns across the river.
Marks reassured Meintz that there was more manpower in the city of Marinette department and Marinette County Sheriff's Department than in Menominee County. He told him all area departments work closely together, especially in times of crisis, and will do whatever is needed.
A hostage situation at Marinette High School a few years ago sparked the need for official mutual aid agreements, Marks said. With much of the area's law enforcement at the scene, his department was asked to take up routine patrol in Marinette - which became even more necessary when someone decided to take advantage of the crisis to carry out an armed robbery.
Marks said it led to the question of what would happen if a crisis occurred in Menominee County, with only two deputies on duty and others living in the north part of the county.
"You don't have much time if there's an active shooter," Marks said. "This (agreement) truly came out of that (situation)."
"I heard there were over a hundred officers there, wasn't there?" Meintz said of the situation which ended in the death of a student. "That's was out of control. That was too much police force over there. It didn't accomplish anything."
Marks did not respond.
Commissioner Chris Plutchak asked Marks what would happen if the agreement did not get county board approval, and Marks said the assistance would continue "with or without it."
Hafeman asked if the agreement should be rewritten to specify that only non-road patrol employees could be called to Marinette.
Meintz said he was concerned that Menominee County would have to pay for anything it did during a mutual aid call, and asked if they should charge Marinette city or county.
Marks said that Menominee County had never been charged for services provided by other departments, and if it started a charge-for-service agreement, Menominee County would come out on the short end of the deal.
"Keep this in mind," he told Meintz. "Marinette County has a lot of resources we don't have. Marinette City Fire has a HAZMAT team, and Marinette (County) has a dive team. We have had their help and they never sent us a bill.
"We help them, they help us. If I have to compare who gets the better deal - it's us."
Commissioner James Furlong, a former Menominee City Police officer, said the board was getting hung up on the words "day-to-day" in the contract and not looking at who really controls the situation - the sheriff.
"The sheriff will do what he needs to do to provide help and they will call for help with or without an agreement," he said. Furlong called the document a general mutual aid agreement, that relieves the municipalities of liability. In the end, the sheriff would not make decisions that would jeopardize the safety of Menominee County's citizens or the millage agreement, or he would have to answer to the voters, Furlong said.
"In my opinion, that's all it is," Furlong said. "What we should be looking at is the protection of our assets, and if they call -they will go - it's his duty. I say support this and move it forward."
Nelson said he didn't believe the agreement needed to be rewritten, since use of the road patrol was spelled out in the millage language. "He knows when he can or can't send them over," Nelson said of Marks.
The commissioners unanimously approved the agreement, which has already been approved by the Marinette City Council.