Beltrami County receives multiple reimbursements from Public Utilities Commission Line 3 escrow account
March 31, 2021
BEMIDJI, MN: Reimbursements totaling over $170,522 have been received from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Line 3 escrow account for expenses incurred by the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office for training deputies, purchasing equipment, and for expenses incurred during mutual aid requests from our neighboring law enforcement agencies and in support of the Northern Lights Task Force (NLTF). The Northern Lights Task Force was created and affirmed by resolution by each member county board and is strongly supported by State agencies along with fire and EMS agencies within each county. The mission statement for the task force is: “To provide a safe environment that protects life, property, and free speech through a respectful approach by well trained, disciplined peace officers relating to the lawful activities conducted by those who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights in Minnesota.“
The escrow account was established by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) as part of the permitting process for Enbridge Corporation for the construction of Line 3. The PUC established the escrow account to lessen the burden on local taxpayers.
At this time during the construction of Line 3, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office has responded to seven (7) requests for Mutual Aid from the Clearwater, Hubbard and Aitkin County Sheriffs. In Clearwater and Hubbard Counties, specially trained deputies were called to assist in the safe and lawful removal of persons willingly attached to sleeping dragon devices or suspended in tri-pod systems. A sleeping dragon device is a complex, homemade device, usually made in combination of materials such as metals, plastics, liquids, petroleum products and other materials. Protestors will join their extremities inside these devices with the intent of disrupting operations. As easily as they join together inside these devices, they could also effortlessly disengage from them as well. Safely removing them from the device is an expensive, time consuming task and always ends with the subject’s arrest. In Aitkin County, specially trained deputies were called to augment and support the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office operations. All expenses incurred from these mutual aid requests were reimbursed by the PUC. Other reimbursements received from the PUC included $107,620 in personnel protective equipment and nearly $50,935 in wage reimbursements related to the training and planning associated with the NLTF.
Maintaining public safety is one of the many duties of our office. Minnesota laws allow law enforcement agencies including, Emergency Management and Fire Departments, to assist other agencies through reciprocal agreements when planned and unplanned events could or would likely overwhelm the services of a smaller agency. For all of Minnesota, especially for Greater Minnesota, not having mutual aid could easily overwhelm a rural Sheriff’s Office or Fire Department in their time of need, potentially costing lives and unrecoverable financial costs associated with property damage, recovery operations, and clean up.
In 2020, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and the Bemidji Police Department called upon mutual aid from agencies across Minnesota. Two (2) days of civil unrest and a Presidential visit from President Donald Trump required the call for mutual aid. A significant law enforcement response from all across Minnesota came to our aid during the Presidential visit and only a small amount of costs for food and beverages were passed on to local taxpayers.
The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office has submitted reimbursement requests from the PUC totaling $206,580. $23,130 of those expenses have been initially denied, and $12,927 are still pending reimbursement. Preparation for Line 3 began in 2016 and all related expenses were within Sheriff’s Office budget. Potentially having all expenses reimbursed by the PUC is being fiscally responsible to Beltrami County taxpayers. In addition, through fiscally responsible public safety, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office has returned in excess of 2.2 million dollars back to the general fund since 2015. The need for public safety continues to grow for Beltrami County. We’ve designed efficiencies and increased services and programs to protect the lives, rights, privileges and property of the citizens of Beltrami County.
Sheriff Ernie Beitel
Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office