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Councilman questions law enforcement contract

Hebron councilman Jay Bauer has a few questions about Sheriff David Lee’s annual request for city funding.

The county police department hires out its services to communities within its jurisdiction to enforce city and village ordinances. Four communities in Thayer County including Bruning, Davenport, Deshler and Hebron, take advantage of the offer.

But Bauer is curious as to why it costs Hebron over three times as much per person per year as any other community. “We pay $90 per person and Deshler pays $30 per person for the same services,” he said Monday night at the regular July meeting of the Hebron City Council. “How is that fair?”

In actuality, the City of Hebron pays $141,552 annually, and with a population of 1,579 (2010 census), it works out to $89.64 per person per year, or roughly $90 as Bauer indicated.

However, Deshler was, according to mayor Naomi Grupe, paying $30,240 annually, until last Tuesday night, July 3. With a population of 747 (2010 census), the cost worked out to $40.48 per person per year, or $10 higher than Bauer suggested. But now that’s all changed, Grupe said, as the board renewed its law enforcement contract for $1,000 per month, shaving almost two-thirds of the cost off the total.

The board decided to use the savings to purchase security cameras to place in trouble spots around the city.

The new payment to the county police force buys active patrolling in the city for one hour each day and assistance in enforcing city ordinances.  

Bruning and Davenport, the only other two communities in Thayer County who pay for the enforcement service, each contribute $11,400 annually and although their populations differ by 11 people – 283-Bruning, 294-Davenport – average $39.50 per person per year.

Bauer’s point Monday night is that the City of Hebron is paying far more per person than anyone else and basically receiving the same services.

Last year Sheriff Lee said he bases the payment on man-hours not population. Hebron, at its current contract, receives 12 hours of patrolling per day as well as assistance with city ordinance enforcement.

Council President Larry Fangmeier said he sees the Hebron community as receiving more than just the “paid-for” services from the local law enforcement center. “All of the deputies and the sheriff reside in Hebron,” he said during the meeting. “They have their families here, they use our businesses, they attend our schools…I think our community benefits from their presence.”

Bauer said he was frustrated that Sheriff Lee did not attend the discussion Monday night and felt unsatisfied that his questions were not being answered.

The council agreed to place the issue on the agenda for next month after the motion to approve the contract died for lack of a majority. Councilman Robert Dodes was absent.

The contract ended June 30.

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