After a recent situation involving an escaped inmate and relying on two other outside area law enforcement groups to provide a drone, Wadena County Commissioners approved the purchase of a drone for the Wadena County Sheriff’s Office.

The Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual UAS drone comes at a cost of $5,510.99. Sgt. Bryan Savaloja spoke about the use of the drone, which he explained would have numerous other applications. He said during the inmate search, there were times they were unable to use outside agencies drones because the officer was unavailable to operate it. In some cases it was hours before a drone was made available.

“We got caught kind of flat-footed last week,” he said.

Recent uses Savaloja explained involved a suspect who fired shots at an officer in Todd County. Todd County deputies reportedly used the drone to approach the suspect from the air to determine the suspects location and condition. Savaloja noted a missing child who was found with assistance from a drone. Deputy Tyler Wheeler spoke from an emergency management standpoint, the tool could also prove useful during natural disasters like tornadoes or flooding for quick assessments.

Savaloja and Wheeler would be trained to use the drone with monthly training involved. That training added another $700 cost to the total. Commissioners were fully in support of the purchase.

Savaloja spoke further on the specifications and use of the drone. It comes with a monitor for flying, high-powered spotlight for viewing in the dark as well as a FLIR camera that senses infrared radiation. Multiple batteries will keep the drone going for hours. It was noted this is a smaller drone, not capable of carrying objects such as a life preserver. It's capable of sending its imagery to a monitor so officers can easily view what the drone sees.

Savaloja shared that law enforcement cannot simply use this device without reason.

“We can’t just fly these anywhere,” Savaloja said.

They cannot go around snooping with it, to enter a private property requires a warrant just as it would for them to enter on foot. Circumstances would have to indicate an emergency to operate otherwise.



In other actions, board members:

  • Approved a proposal from Foss Architecture and Interiors for $5,200 for a site visit, full design documents and technical specifications for new finishes in the existing upstairs and downstairs restrooms of the courthouse. A rough estimate of $45,000-$50,000 to make all things new in these four bathrooms was shared by County Coordinator Ryan Odden. So far just the architectural costs have been approved. Board chair Bill Stearns said bathrooms have not had a remodel in the last 60 years. Board member Jim Hofer said he supported the remodel but questioned why this remodel came forward without going through the long-term planning. Commissioner Jon Kangas said the entire board should have a list of projects planned to stay abreast with what’s coming forward. Commissioner Chuck Horsager pushed for a 10-year plan. Stearns said 10-year plans “are totally worthless” as they just get scratched over time. Hofer hoped for at least a two-year plan.

“It would just be nice to see a laundry list of our needs,” Hofer said.

Stearns brought up again the need to find a solution for the link to the annex. This topic came up in a recent board meeting as there were concerns over HVAC and the swing of a door in this area. Odden said he would continue to look into it.

  • Approved a fee schedule with little discussion other than questioning the need for a permit to hold a dance. Auditor Heather Olson said fee hearings would be held twice a year.
  • Approved passing of ordinance 6, related to regulating large assemblies, with slight adjustments to language including making it effective only to those areas of the county outside of municipalities and making it effective Jan. 1, 2020. Further discussion was had including only requiring fencing around the performance area, not the entire parking and camping areas.
  • Approved additional funds of $19,000 for the Todd-Wadena Community Corrections department. The funds were necessary due to increased costs and state funds being less than they were in 2003, according to Director Kathy Langer. Earlier in the day, Todd County approved funds of $31,000, giving corrections a total of $50,000 in additional funding. "The state simply has not kept pace," Langer explained. She explained that this area is not unique as across the state, the state has seen less than a 1% increase in funds in the last 10 years. Langer expressed that the Corrections department has looked at many ways to cut costs.
  • Held a closed session concerning concerning courthouse security.
  • Held a closed session concerning IT security.