BEMIDJI -- Four committees were established on Tuesday, April 6, to determine the future of the Beltrami County Jail.

During its meeting, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners authorized the creation of a steering committee to manage the process and three advisory committees to make recommendations. In addition to the committees, the commissioners approved the hiring of a consultant to provide leadership and management services at an estimated cost of $150,000 annually.

The new steering committee is set to include:

  • Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince.
  • Red Lake Nation Chair Darrell Seki and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chair Faron Jackson.
  • Beltrami County Sheriff Ernie Beitel, Jail Administrator Calandra Allen and Administrator Thomas Barry.
  • Department of Corrections Regional Director Trisha Hansen and Tribal Liaison Randy Goodwin.

The Programming Advisory Committee will include County Social Services Director Jeff Lind and Lead State Public Defender Kristine Kolar. The Design and Operations Committee is going to include Allen and County Facility Supervisor Steve Shadrick.

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The third committee, focused on finance, will include Beltrami County Sheriff Chief Deputy Jarrett Walton, Auditor-Treasurer JoDee Treat, Finance Director Samantha Rux and Administrator Thomas Barry. Each of the committees will also include commissioners and several county residents.

In addition to the committees, the board ordered a jail feasibility study.

Additional county business

Another approval made by the board Tuesday was the advancement of hiring a new county veterans services officer. Current services officer Scotty Allison announced last year that he would begin a transition process out of the role to retirement as a new person is hired.

According to Barry, 20 applications were received for the position and nine finalists were reviewed by a hiring committee on March 22. The committee recommended the commissioners move forward with Beltrami County Sheriff's Office employee Shane Gustafson for the role.

The plan moving forward is for Allison to provide up to six months of transitionary training, followed by working reduced hours before retiring. At that point, Gustafson would be appointed to the role.

"I'd like to thank Scotty for being so farsighted on this," District 2 Commissioner Reed Olson said. "He's been talking to us for several years now about his succession and I think that does a lot. It's wonderful when staff members give us the time to have a seamless transition for something as important as the veteran services officer."

Other happenings at Tuesday's meeting included:

  • Approving a request from the County Highway Department to hire two additional seasonal staff this summer to address noxious weeds. The cost is estimated at $10,000 per position.
  • During the public comment period, several individuals spoke about their opposition to the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project. Along with the speakers, there were about 20 other people in support of the statements made before the board.