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Hillsboro policing may get a helping hand from sheriff's department

Traill County Sheriff Steve Hunt. Eric Hylden/ Forum News Service

HILLSBORO, N.D. — If the Hillsboro City Commission gives its final approval next week, there will be new law enforcement in town by the new year.

Traill County Sheriff Steve Hunt said the Traill County Commission last week approved a contract that would have his department cover police duties for the city of nearly 1,600 people. Part of that plan calls for current Hillsboro Police Chief Ray Weber to transfer to a deputy role within the Sheriff's Department.

"We worked together for years, so I don't expect any big issues as far as transitioning," Hunt said.

Weber had worked in the Sheriff's Department before taking the job as Hillsboro's top lawman. Under the new plan, he would move from his office in City Hall to sheriff's headquarters in the Traill County Courthouse in Hillsboro.

Power of 10

Hunt said the police department has been short an officer since one resigned this past summer, but he says he would seek a replacement deputy soon after the contract is signed. The position would be active as soon as Jan. 1.

The Traill County Sheriff's Department already has similar contracts with Mayville, Portland and Hatton, as well as deals with Clifford, Reynolds and Buxton.

The latest contract would bring the total number of sworn officers to 10 for the sheriff's office that covers 863 square miles.

"Basically, once we pick up Hillsboro, we'll have the whole county," Hunt said. "We do have deputies who reside in all these communities as well. That is one thing we do is try to station them accordingly."

Growing trend

Hunt says the expense of running a department, along with all of the training and supervision requirements, has led to a trend in consolidated contracts in rural areas.

"It's extremely difficult to cover a city the size of Hillsboro with two people. You have to figure in vacation, time off and that type of stuff, and there's just not too many people willing to devote their entire life to their occupation," he said. "It's just so hard to find those people who want to do that, and it's really not right to expect people to do it, anyway. People have to have time away from the job, and in a small town, you just don't get away from that."

Hunt sees the contract as a win-win. The city is contracting for the equivalent of two officers to patrol the town, but they're actually getting 10.

Deputies switch up their beats, so no officer sticks to just one town.

"We all work the county. We all work the cities," Hunt said. "It's been very beneficial for everybody the way it's been working out."

The city commission is expected to vote on the contract Monday.

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