County letters of termination to drug task force rescinded

WORTHINGTON - Changes to the voting make-up of the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force Board were approved this week during a meeting of that board, and the three counties involved - Murray, Nobles and Pipestone - rescinded their letters to terminate the agreement. The three counties had all submitted termination letters a few months ago  amidst turmoil on the board regarding voting rights and chain of command. The counties pulling out would have effectively ended the task force.

Originally, each county sheriff's office had two voting members, as did the Worthington Police Department. Smaller cities involved with the force but with no peace officer assigned to the force were each given a vote. The attorney for the task force, in this case Murray County Attorney Travis Smith, also had a vote.

In the new agreement, each county sheriff and one additional peace officer appointed will have a vote, and each police chief or representative that has an active member on the task force gets one vote. Currently only the Worthington Police Department fills that bill. The attorney is now a non-voting member of the board, as are the chiefs from Adrian, Fulda and Slayton, since they do not have a peace officer on the task force.

The JPA also says each year the board will elect a chair and a vice-chair. The current chair is Pipestone Chief Deputy Mike Hammen, with the vice chair held by Nobles County Chief Deputy Chris Dybevick.

Another recent change with the appointment of Murray County Lt. Chris Lewis and Commander. Currently, there is no assistant commander, but Lewis said task force agents Edison Dengler of Pipestone and Lonnie Roloff of Nobles have shown interest in the job.

During a report to the board, Lewis said the task force opened 71 new investigations last quarter, seized marijuana, meth and prescription drugs. They made a number of arrests, and assisted other law enforcement entities from a local level to the federal level.

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