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Lyon Co. Board to negotiate for Sentenced to Service agreement

MARSHALL — Lyon County commissioners said a state program that manages community service work for low-risk offenders has had benefits for the county in the past — but over the last two years, they weren’t sure they were getting a good value from the program.

Instead of approving a new two-year contract for the Sentenced to Service program, commissioners said Tuesday that they would form a group to possibly negotiate a different agreement with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

The county’s current Sentenced to Service contract expires at the end of June.

In the Sentenced to Service program, low-risk offenders perform community service work under a crew leader provided by the state. Under the proposed contract brought before county commissioners, a crew leader would supervise up to 10 offenders each for about 40 hours a week. The state would also submit quarterly reports to the county with information including the total number of offenders served by the program, the total number of hours they worked, the estimated market value of projects they completed, and the dollar benefit of the STS labor at $10 per hour.

The proposed contract would run from July 1 through June 30, 2023. The cost for the first year of the contract would be $75,075, and the cost for the second year would be $77,627.

Lyon County’s current two-year STS contract is for $72,537.

In discussion of the proposal, commissioners said STS had worked well in the past, but they weren’t sure Lyon County was getting good value from the program now.

After the past two years, “I have a hard time wanting to commit for the next two years,” said Commissioner Charlie Sanow.

Brad Odegard of the Department of Corrections said the STS program had been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions over the past year. For example, more crew members were working independently, and there were limits to how many crew members could use the same transportation together.

“The question I would ask, is how many other counties have created their own Sentenced to Service program?” said Commissioner Rick Anderson.

Odegard said Cottonwood County had not renewed its contract, and there had been some additional counties around the state.

Commissioners also asked if they could agree to a one-year contract instead of a two-year contract. Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said the proposed two-year contract had a 30-day termination clause, so it was possible for commissioners to approve the contract and then re-evaluate in a few months.

Commissioners Anderson and Sanow said they would volunteer to work with Odegard and Stomberg on a possible alternate proposal for STS. They would report back to the board at its first May meeting.

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