Time is of the essence when it comes to rescuing a drowning victim, but it also applies to recovering a body from a lake and reuniting the deceased with grieving family and friends.
The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office sought approval Tuesday, April 9, from the board of commissioners to buy a new boat, motor and trailer, and a back-up sonar, to assist its staff.
"Crow Wing County water patrol has got quite a reputation for finding drowning victims fast. Is it expertise? Yeah, but it's the equipment that we've been able to acquire and utilize," Lt. Adam Kronstedt told the commissioners.
The sheriff's office is applying for innovative grant funding through Sourcewell to acquire a second side-scan sonar device-the first was acquired in 2004-and electric winch to keep up with requests from other counties that need assistance in locating drowning victims.
"Prior to 2004, recovering dead bodies was either waiting for two to three weeks to have a body float to the surface, dragging treble hooks on the bottom and hooking a body ... or sending divers down-towing them behind a boat-for days, until they come across (the body) because they can only see arm's length sometimes ... when they're on the bottom," he said.
The Crow Wing County Dive Rescue Team is made up of 10 volunteers dedicated to the rescue of water accident victims and to the recovery of drowning victims. Commissioner Paul Koering previously transported the deceased on the county's behalf to the coroner.
"If you can imagine-and I know Paul has been there and seen what this looks like when a body's underwater for that amount of time-it's not pretty. It's not a body anymore," Kronstedt said.
The side-scan sonar device resembles a torpedo and costs about $50,000, according to Kronstedt, and it is towed behind a boat, about 5 to 6 feet above the bottom of the lake. The sheriff's office's 2004 sonar device is mounted to the sheriff's office's dive barge pontoon.
Kronstedt said the side-scan sonar can provide "an exact image of the bottom" of the lake.
The county has an average population of almost 60,000, but that can triple during the summer months by Brainerd lakes area visitors, many of whom come to enjoy the county's lakes.
"What we've been able to do is bring them back very quickly, so they can say goodbye. I've been with ... the family members, and I've seen the pain that goes into it when they don't have their loved ones for that long," Kronstedt said of recovering bodies from lakes. "I've recovered bodies, myself, from the bottom of the lake, and it's not an enjoyable experience, but you get such a reward from the family members when you can bring them back fast, and we've done that every year with this piece of equipment."
Koering made the motion to authorize the sheriff's office to apply for an innovation grant from Sourcewell to acquire a side-scan sonar device and winch system. Commissioner Steve Barrows seconded the motion, and it was passed unanimously.
Boat, motor, trailer
Kronstedt also sought Tuesday the board's authorization to enter into a grant agreement between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the sheriff's office for the purchase of a boat, motor and trailer.
"The sheriff's office has been working with the state since about 2006, when we purchased our first boat under a state grant. Minnesota DNR has funding for counties to purchase equipment for water patrol," Kronstedt said.
The sheriff's office would like to buy a new 18-foot boat with a 150-horsepower motor, a single axle trailer and six MOB+ wireless cutoff set-ups, which consist of boat-mounted parts paired with a wearable device that, when wet, cuts the boat's engine off. The maximum reimbursement from the Minnesota DNR is $40,480.
"The dollar amount covers the boat, the trailer, electronics, sheriff's striping and emergency lights. Once we make that purchase, they send the reimbursement to us," Kronstedt said. "They determine a need through an application process throughout all the counties in the state. We submit an application every year as to what our needs are, if we need to replace a boat that has a high number of hours on the motor."
The sheriff's office is equipped with six boats and two personal watercraft. There are more than 400 lakes in the county, with a combined water surface area of over 92,000 acres. Sheriff's deputies patrol lakes from early May through mid-September.
"We have a very solid fleet of boats for our water patrol right now. A couple of boats that get used the most-just because they offer the most ease of use in most of our lakes, get the most hours-one of our Crestliner, I believe, is a 2010 Crestliner. It's an aluminum boat," he said.
The Crow Wing County Boat and Water Division of the sheriff's office includes a couple of boats that are older, but more durable and do not get used as often.
"One of the contingencies of this contract was that another county is going to acquire our former Crestliner. It still has some life in it, but not the amount of life that Crow Wing County uses their boats for. Our guys are out there on a daily basis using these boats," Kronstedt said. "This boat would go to Nobles County, and their bodies of water are a lot less than Crow Wing's, so they need something for emergency purposes, not for an everyday patrol boat, and that would suffice for them. They're pretty excited to acquire this from Crow Wing County."
Barrows made the motion to authorize entering into a grant agreement between the DNR and the sheriff's office for the purchase of a boat, motor and trailer. Koering seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously.
In other business, the county board:
Approved the hiring of Jake Cleys, land services environmental services specialist in training.
Approved the departure of Caleb Kreller, sheriff's office correctional officer, and Mark Barta, community services social worker.
Supported the Minnesota lawful gambling applications for exempt permits for Garrison Lions Club on Sept. 7 at the Birds Nest, Garrison, and Sept. 14 at the Twin Pines Resort, Garrison, and St. Mathias Church on June 30.
Approved the email management administrative policy to provide guidelines to county staff to set practices to balance transparency and data management in relation to county email systems, and addresses what kinds of email to save or delete, and for how long, because of safety and security reasons, while also remaining compliant with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
Approved the out-of-state travel request authorizing the administrative services director to attend the 2019 Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center meeting from April 28 to May 1 in Denver as the Minnesota local election representative with travel and lodging expenses to be paid by the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
Withdrew tax-forfeited properties from the over-the-counter list and authorized their sale to an adjoining landowner on Oreland Mine Road in Deerwood Township for $1,000 and to an adjoining landowner near Whitstrom Road in Nisswa for $400.
Accepted a donation in the amount of $161,005 from Enbridge Energy to pay off the county's contract for deed with the Regents of the University of Minnesota concerning property in Timothy Township.
Authorized the board chair to sign a letter of support for CORE Professional Services, which provides counseling services, to submit with its grant application to the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
Updated the roster of the county community corrections advisory board due to the retirement of Judge Earl Maus, who was replaced by Ninth Judicial District Judge Erik Askegaard, also seated in Crow Wing County.
Approved the land use map amendment requested by the petition of John and Brenda Mogensen of Brainerd to amend about 41 acres from rural residential 10 with shoreland residential to rural residential 5.
Approved the Minnesota Trail Assistance Program applications for grant-in-aid for snowmobile, ski, all-terrain vehicle and off-highway motorcycle trail assistance clubs in the county for 2019-20.
Authorized entering into contracts between the county and Astech Corp. for $1,034,323 for bituminous seal coat; Anderson Brothers Construction Co. for $274,996 for bituminous spot patching; and Knife River Corp. for $134,473 for aggregate shouldering.