Freeborn County takes steps toward start of district veterans court

Published 8:37 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Work is moving forward for the new veterans court that will cover the 11-county 3rd Judicial Court region.

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Minnesota 3rd Judicial Branch regarding the county and judicial district’s role in the program.

Freeborn County Probation and Pre-Trial Services Director Lyndon Stinson said the judicial district will oversee a $500,000 federal grant over a four-year period to run the program. The county has agreed to provide a coordinator, management and other services in exchange for 100% reimbursement of all costs, according to the grant guidelines.

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The court will cater to veterans in the community who are charged with gross misdemeanors or felonies and will include highly intensive probationary courts where the defendants are met with more regularly and have increased oversight for 1 1/2 to two years. The court works with county veterans services officers, the state’s veteran justice outreach officer, probation officers, mental health professionals and treatment professionals to help the veterans receive needed Veterans Affairs services — including drug and alcohol treatment, domestic abuse programming, housing assistance and employment assistance.

Stinson said Freeborn County veterans who participate in the court will go to the Steele County courthouse, where District Court Judge Ross Leuning will oversee the proceedings. Another location for veterans participating in the program on the other side of the district will be in Preston.

“I think this is going to be a great program,” Commissioner Jim Nelson said, noting it has been in the works for a few years.

The board also approved hiring a coordinator for the program. The position will be housed in the Court Administration office.

In other action, the board:

• Accepted a $1,000 donation to go toward the K-9 fund for the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office.

• Approved reimbursing the Sheriff’s Office for wages totaling $877 for aquatic invasive species enforcement.

The county receives grant dollars from the state for these efforts.

• Approved right-of-way recording for county ditches 4, 5, 23, 79, 80 and 82.

• Approved out-of-state travel for Commissioner Chris Shoff to attend the National Association of Counties board of directors meeting.