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South Heart searching


The long-time face of law enforcement in South Heart has stepped down, which has left officials working to ensure the town remains secure.

After 30 years of service, Linda Mosbrucker retired from her post as the city's lone police officer. She finished working at the end of August.

"The city is very grateful for her hard work," South Heart City Councilman Chuck Andrus said.

The city is still under the surveillance of assisting departments until the end of the year, but the small town needs a long-term solution.

Andrus said council members are weighing the option of finding a replacement officer or contracting the Stark County Sheriff's Department to increase their coverage in town.

"What would be ideal is I would be able to find an officer who is licensed and ready to go, and is retired and wants to earn a part-time income in a nice quiet town like South Heart," Andrus said. "But the reality is that anybody who has any police training is in real high demand in western North Dakota, so trying to find someone with the qualifications is very difficult."

Law enforcement officials have seen increased work demand because of an influx of people from a recent oil boom.

Andrus said a resident officer would be better for quick response, saying that "boots on the ground are better than a phone call away."

Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy agreed, adding that his officers might have to cross the county to respond to calls, which costs more time and money.

Negotiations are underway to determine fees, frequency of patrol and how much the city can afford.

Tuhy said nothing has been resolved.

"They can't afford their own law enforcement, yet they want to pay minimal for law enforcement on a contract basis," he said.

Andrus said it is difficult for the small community to match the wages of the larger departments.

Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning said incorporated municipalities are required to provide emergency services, but may differ in their ordinances and it would be the decision of the Sheriff to contract services.

Gladstone, Richardton and Taylor are under the watch of the Sheriff's Department. Officers respond to calls and occasionally patrol the towns, Tuhy said, but the work is sporadic.

"You never know where you are going to be busy," Tuhy said. "In law enforcement it is unpredictable -- the workload."

When the rate of work per hour is broken down for the small communities, they are paying about $4 to $7 per hour, Tuhy said. Taylor and Gladstone pay on a per-capita basis, $198 and $351 in 2010, respectively, and Richardton pays a flat fee, which in 2010 was $2,928. South Heart officials are pushing to pay per capita.

As the search continues, Andrus knows it may be difficult to fill the spot.

"A law enforcement officer is a highly skilled position, and it is not something you find at the drop of a hat," he said.

Tuhy said he hopes something can be resolved.

"It gets to the point, can they afford it?" he said. "At the same time, can they afford to be without it?"

Multiple attempts to reach Mosbrucker were unsuccessful.