On March 27, Houston County commissioners approved four candidates to run boat patrols on the Mississippi River this summer.

Bob Schuldt, Rod Humble and Mike Ernster were re-hired as temporary 67-day water patrol officers for the Sheriff's Department.

Tyler Heiden was approved as the fourth officer, contingent on a required background check.

"They don't (each) work every day," Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter said of the officers, "but, we try to put someone on the river every day."

Yeiter said the water patrols will total about 32 hours per week with more hours during busy boating weekends such as the Fourth of July.

Typical duties include rescuing boaters, and citing equipment violations and unsafe operation by boaters, Yeiter explained.

Each year, there're usually are one or two serious accidents, he said. Yeiter told the board that the Sheriff's Office encourages residents to call when they see unsafe behavior on the water.

The board approved a state of Minnesota Water Safety Grant for $7,127 (up from$4,100 last year) to help pay for the patrols. Yeiter said a federal grant for $5,000 will also be used. Together, that will fund most of the program, he noted.

Chief deputy position changing

In other Sheriff's Department news, commissioners approved an internal search (posting) for the position of chief investigator.

Sheriff Doug Ely said the job will not include the rank of captain. The position was vacated recently when Captain Gary Eddy left the department for employment elsewhere.

Personnel director Tess Kruger asked the board to initiate a search for a replacement deputy to bring the department up to staff, but commissioners hesitated.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke asked Ely to contact private contractor Premier Security to see if courtroom duties might be cheaper to hire out, freeing up courtroom security officer/emergency coordinator Kurt Kuhlers for other tasks.

Chairman Jack Miller agreed. "I think it would be a good time to look at it," he said, noting that the department has already spent 257 percent of its 2012 medical fees budget for prisoners.

"I need somebody on the road," Ely told the board, "It's just unfortunate that the Sheriff's Office seems to be the whipping post every time there's an issue. The sheriff is responsible for the peace and order of the county, period."

The department is currently short one deputy in addition to Eddy's job.

"We're talking dollars and cents," Bjerke said. "Try it (contracting) for a couple of months while we do an in-house search for an investigator. Once that's filled, we'll look at the hole we have... Let's get together to make this thing work.

"I'll do whatever the board requests," Ely said. "We'll get Premier on board."