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St. Croix County adds employee to work with crime victims

After being assured no county funds will be used, St. Croix County Board members agreed last week to add a fourth worker to the county's victim/witness assistance program.

The county program now has three full-time positions: The coordinator, a specialist and a legal advocate. The new position will be called "victim services assistant."

The assistant will screen people who contact the office by phone or in person, help victims get restitution, provide short-term crisis intervention and work as a liaison between other program staff and prosecutors to assure victims and witnesses can make it to hearings.

Pay for the job will be $18.87 an hour. This position is set to start July 1. The 2009 costs, which includes salary, benefits, training and new equipment and office furniture, is $38,818.

District Attorney Eric Johnson said his office received notification that the Wisconsin Department of Justice has approved funding for the position. At one time such funding covered up to 90 percent of salary, benefits and some equipment, but in recent years the reimbursement has dropped to 52 percent, said Johnson.

According to documentation for the position, a growing county population has also meant an increase in crime. The county program served 1,049 victims and witnesses in 2003 and 1,844 in 2008, but the staffing level hasn't changed since 2003.

Johnson estimated state funds will cover $29,400 of the costs this year. His department has also been assured it can get an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant to cover the rest of this year's and part of next year's costs.

Johnson said state funding and grant money will cover the cost of the position through 2011.

"The bottom line is the county is not going to be paying for it, and there is a significant need," he said.

The resolution adopted by the board says the position will continue as long as non-county funding sources cover the cost or until it is determined the position is no longer needed.

In other business last week, the County Board:

  • Authorized an application for a Department of Natural Resources grant for up to $126,000 for Goodrich Farms, town of Cylon, for an animal waste storage structure to decrease runoff to the Willow River.

    Goodrich Farms must come up with 30 percent of that amount as a match, but Land and Water Conservation Office Director Bob Heise said there could be federal money to pay part of that cost.

  • Authorized an application for a DNR grant for up to $52,500 for the YMCA of Greater St. Paul, town of Troy, to do erosion control work along the St. Croix River. The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service may pick up part of the 30 percent match.

    Heise said runoff from a tunnel under County F is causing severe erosion down to the river.

    "If not taken care of, it's only going to get worse and worse and worse," he said.

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