Drug detective doesn’t make 2014 budget at this time

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

While the city of Elk River’s 2014 budget won’t be finalized until December, it appears all but certain that funding for a drug task force detective will not be in it.

Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe had asked for the detective as one means to help the city combat illegal drug activity, including a serious heroin problem.

Rolfe told the council in August: “I think the council is well aware in recent years of the concern with heroin use and abuse and overdoses and subsequent deaths that we’ve experienced in the city. We’re trying to effectively address that.”

Since Jan. 1, 2012, there have been 15 drug overdose deaths throughout Sherburne County, according to Sheriff Joel Brott. Of these, four were heroin overdoses that occurred in the city of Elk River.

Rolfe had proposed assigning a police officer as a detective on the Sherburne County Drug Task Force and hiring a replacement officer. Total cost for 2014 would be $68,650. The task force currently includes a sergeant and three detectives from the sheriff’s office.

Rolfe has said that it’s ultimately his department’s responsibility to investigate drug crimes in Elk River, and he believes adding a city detective to the Sherburne County Drug Task Force is the most effective way to do that.

But up to this point, the drug task force detective has not been included in the city’s preliminary 2014 budget. The City Council discussed it again in a work session Monday.

Mayor John Dietz favored dropping a new deputy fire chief position from the proposed budget and adding the drug task force detective instead. But that idea did not move forward.

The council also briefly discussed increasing the budget by $68,650 to add the detective, but that idea didn’t advance either.

Council Member Paul Motin said if there are additional revenues in the future, he might consider adding a drug task force detective, but “right now it’s just too much of an impact on the city.”

He also feels other communities should participate in the county’s drug task force, too.

“It’s a tough decision,” Council Member Matt Westgaard said, noting that he’s also trying to hold the line on the budget.

Council Member Stewart Wilson agreed that the choices are difficult ones but said he supports the personnel package as it stands without the drug task force detective.