Christmas came early for the Becker County Sheriff’s Office: It is getting a -- slightly used -- Peacekeeper armored military vehicle free from the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, which has upgraded to a newer model of armored vehicle and doesn’t need it any more.

“It’s mainly a personnel carrier for going into (dangerous) situations,” Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander told the County Board at the Tuesday morning, Dec. 3, meeting.

The Peacekeeper will be the first armored vehicle available to law enforcement in the Becker County-Detroit Lakes-White Earth area. It will be used, if needed, for emergency situations such as hostage rescue, barricaded suspect, an active shooter or a natural disaster rescue, according to an armored vehicle justification form sent by Glander to the Law Enforcement Support Office of the federal Defense Logistics Agency.

A 1997 law allows the free transfer of excess Department of Defense equipment that might otherwise be destroyed to law enforcement agencies across the nation.

“We estimate less than 10 deployments a year,” Glander wrote on the request form. “But have not had equipment similar to this in the past to determine usage.”

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The Peacekeeper will be kept in a locked, heated impound building that holds other sheriff’s office equipment, he said.

The only cost to Becker County will be changing the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office markings on the Peacekeeper to Becker County Sheriff’s Office markings.

The County Board also approved Glander’s previously budgeted request to purchase 22 ballistic helmets with riot face shields at the lowest of two quotes of $7,652 from Galls, a police supply company in Lexington, Ky.

County officials get salary increases

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved a 2.5% salary increase for county elected officials in 2020.

The annual base salary for the auditor-treasurer was set at $89,630; for the county recorder at $74,525; for the sheriff at $108,546; for the county attorney at $115,332, and for the five commissioners at $25,217 apiece, with an extra $1,230 for the board chair position, which rotates every year.

The sheriff’s salary was boosted by an additional $5,000 (included in the total of $108,546) following the results of a salary survey of other county sheriffs in the area, said Becker County Administrator Mike Brethorst.

Becker County Commissioner Larry Knutson cast the only vote against the salary increases for elected officials and commissioners.

“I think everybody makes enough money around here,” he explained after the meeting. He also doesn’t like across-the-board salary hikes based on a percentage, rather than on individual performance standards. “The spread (between the highest paid and the lowest paid) gets wider and wider -- I don’t like it,” he said.

The annual $10,920 compensation for the county surveyor position was not increased because it is based on the cost of health insurance, and can be adjusted later if needed, Knutson said. The county’s salary committee had recommended a 2.5% increase for the surveyor position as well, to $11,193 a year through 2022. That was unanimously denied by the county board, in part because the surveyor had agreed to the existing compensation when his four-year contract was approved earlier this year.

In other action Tuesday

  • Good news was received about Sunnyside Care Center near Lake Park, a nursing home that is county-owned, but managed by Ecumen. Sunnyside came in about $223,000 above budget this year, and the staff there achieved several landmark accomplishments that puts them among the best in the Ecumen organization, said Commissioner Barry Nelson. “That’s really good,” he said.
  • Lakeland Mental Health has received a grant to help implement “peer counseling” for its clients. Peer counseling connects people who have overcome addiction and mental illness with clients who are struggling with those very issues, said Commissioner Don Skarie. It may just be people talking to each other, he added, but hearing from someone who has had the same problems and has come out of them OK can be helpful. “Some people are real receptive to that,” he said.
  • Looks like the Tractor Pull will be returning to the Becker County Fair grandstands after a long absence, said Skarie, who represents the County Board on the Fair Board.

“The reason they quit doing it wasn’t because it wasn’t popular,” he said, it’s because the event was a money-loser for the fair. Now several people have expressed interest in bringing it back, and a group has offered to hold the event for $7,500, plus some limited volunteer labor. “This plan will make it easy to be profitable,” Skarie said. “They (the fair board) will probably do it on Thursday night. They don’t want to give up the demo derbies.”

Tractor Pulling is known as “the world’s heaviest motorsport,” according to the National Tractor Pullers Association. The goal is to determine the strongest machine and the best driver. Unlike other motorsports, it is not about speed, but distance pulled, with modified tractors or trucks dragging an ever-increasing load along a 320-foot track.