PARK RAPIDS -- Cuts to the police forces in Nevis and Akeley will mean the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department will have to spread its services thinner throughout the region.
"We are obligated as a county to serve the people and municipalities," Sheriff Frank Homer said.
"It's definitely going to add to our duties."
But as the county prepares to re-negotiate its contract with the city of Nevis to share the cost of a deputy, Hubbard County commissioners are worried about the inequities of one town paying for services, while Akeley, Laporte, Lake George and other communities don't.
"I'm nervous about the whole setup," commissioner Dick Devine admitted. "If one town is paying and another town is not."
Board chair Lyle Robinson questioned whether providing services to towns like Akeley and Nevis is more costly because both have municipal liquor stores.
"Do they really have more crime per capita than other areas?" he questioned.
Homer said crime increased around the county's more populated areas, regardless of liquor sales, while acknowledging that certain crimes, such as break-ins, affect the more remote lake cabins.
"If I was the mayor of Nevis I wouldn't want to be paying" for services others get for free, Robinson continued.
"It kind of worries me," Devine agreed.
Homer acknowledged Nevis gets more services and representation "with a contract car."
Dep. Jeff Stacey is the officer who serves Nevis. He is very popular with the locals and has instituted numerous public safety and education programs for the Nevis community and school.
Another deputy will cover for Stacey's days off, Homer said, after Nevis cut the position of the part-time officer who filled in those duties.
"If you pay money you should get better service," Robinson said. "But if Akeley has a problem and the Nevis guy goes over there are the Nevis people going to complain they're paying?"
Homer said Nevis understands "if there is a true blue emergency he's gotta go."
For minor calls such as dog complaints, another deputy is sent, Homer added, so Stacey can patrol Nevis and the surrounding area.
"Look at all the years Akeley has sent someone over to help us," Robinson noted.
Commissioner Cal Johannsen, a former Hubbard County chief deputy, suggested deputizing all officers, including DNR personnel, into one squad.
His suggestion met with some laughter about forming a statewide, or as Homer suggested, a countywide, police force.
Sarah Smith is a reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. The Enterprise and the Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communictions Co.