Officers commended for high-speed pursuit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

Sheriff Mark Harig commended three of his deputies Tuesday at the Freeborn County Board meeting for apprehending three people in a high-speed chase that reached over 100 miles per hour.

Sheriff’s deputies Ryan Merkouris, Adam Hamberg and Will Beers were &8220;instrumental&8221; in apprehending the suspects on April 7; Freeborn County law enforcement, Albert Lea police and Minnesota State Patrol officers worked together to stop the car.

The car was stolen from Watonwan County in Minnesota, and was heading south on I-35 near Clarks Grove when law enforcement officers tried to stop them. The driver refused to stop, but eventually law enforcement applied stop sticks to the road, puncturing the vehicle’s two front tires, slowing the chase.

When suspects drove into the median, the car stopped, and all three tried unsuccessfully to escape on foot.

&8220;While many other officers responded and assisted in this investigation, these three deputies were able to pursue, contain and apprehend this vehicle,&8221; Harig said.

The three suspects had driven through the median into oncoming traffic. Because the deputies were able to stop them in the median, collisions and injuries to other motorists were avoided.

&8220;Their coordination during this apprehension was instrumental in providing public safety and preventing injury to the officers, the violators and to the public,&8221; Harig said.

– Approved a proposed five-year tax abatement for the half a million dollar addition to the Clarks Grove Veterinary Clinic. No members of the general public spoke at the public hearing during the meeting. The clinic will save $28,540 in county taxes through the abatement. Should the Albert Lea School District and the city of Clarks Grove approve their tax abatements on the property, the total amount of taxes abated will be $54,335.

– Voted 3-1 to ratify a contract with the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees stating that employees with the organization would receive the same raise as employees with the Law Enforcement Labor Service or the Teamsters, whichever percentage was higher. Belshan dissented.

Renewed their law enforcement mutual aid agreement with the Albert Lea Police Department and the Alden Police Department.

– Decided to insure the motorcycle provided by Harley-Davidson for the sheriff’s use. The motorcycle costs the county nothing except the approximately $50 per month it takes to insure it.

– Voted 3-1 to give the Emergency Management Director a Jeep Cherokee to use in the performance of his duties, Commissioner Dan Belshan dissenting. The sheriff’s office had forfeited use of the vehicle, so there was no additional cost to the county. Belshan wanted the director to use a fleet vehicle and present mileage to supervisors.

– Designated the week of May 7 through May 13 as Freeborn County Correctional Officers’ Week so county jailers could be recognized.

&8220;Maybe we should have a week for taxpayers who pay for everything,&8221; Belshan said. &8220;Why don’t you line that up?&8221;

– Agreed that Todd Utpadel would be a member of the Geneva Lake Committee. The committee will meet a few times a year to discuss the state of Geneva Lake; as yet no other members have been designated.