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Stevens Co. Commissioners approve budget revision

MORRIS, Minn. - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved an amended 2012 budget, which included budgeted expenses in the special revenue fund and the newly-created West Central SWAT Fund, at their meeting Tuesday. The changes have no impact on the levy approved in December.

County Coordinator Brian Giese said the expenses have already been reviewed and were included in the full budgets that the commissioners looked at, but were not included in the approved budget summary. The changes increase the county's total expenditures from about $12.26 million to $12.41 million, and total revenue from about $6.1 million to $6.27 million.

Special revenue funds are departments that have funding specific to that department and must have expenses specific to that department. Examples include the law library, recorder's equipment fund and boat safety fund. The total revenue for the special funds is about $153,400 and total expenditures are about $147,300.

Veterans Justice Corps agreement revisited

Veterans Service Officer Hugh Reimers came before the board to again discuss partnering with Pope County to apply for a Veterans Justice Corps position to be shared between the counties.

Veteran Justice Corps is a program with AmeriCorps, a national service program funded by Congress. According to the program description, "Veteran Justice Corps in an innovative pilot initiative designed to help U.S. Military veterans involved or at risk to be involved with the criminal justice system live healthy productive lives."

Reimers, who was joined by Terry Jaworski, director of probation for Pope County, told the board he hadn't explained the position clearly at the last meeting, where the commissioners voted to partner on the project when they thought there would be no cost to the position. However, Reimers said that Stevens County would need to provide $2,000 - half the cost of the position - to partner with Pope County.

"I know I said that it might be tough to find the work for a half-time person in Pope and Stevens County, but let's not be that fortunate. Let's not be patting ourselves on the back," said Reimers.

Jaworski told the board the grant is for a three-year position, but can be reassessed and adjusted after the first year. Judge Jon Stafsholt in Pope County oversees one of only two veterans' courts in the state of Minnesota, which puts Pope and Stevens Counties in a good position to apply for the grant, said Jaworski.

Since the Veterans Justice Corps is a new program, the position can be molded to fit the expertise of the person hired and the needs found in the area - proactive measures like education, mentoring, and assistance with job searching, or reactive measures after a veteran is involved in the court system, Reimers and Jaworski explained.

"I believe we're in a unique position right now," said Jaworski. "We have the ability to be real proactive when it comes to helping our veterans. We have this grant application sitting in front of us. We have the ability to prepare to take care of our veterans. They've done so much for us, I think we need to do that."

The board voted unanimously to approve the cost of the position. The county will likely find out if the grant application was approved sometime in March.