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Cass, Morton counties enter mutual aid agreement

Cass, Morton counties enter mutual aid agreement

From the June 24 recap: Bismarck news you may have missed today series
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Fargo leaders, protesters plea for peace instead of violence

Hundreds of people march on the streets of Fargo on May 30 to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Morton County commissioners have entered into a mutual aid agreement with Cass County that is similar but not related to the relationship that developed between the two counties during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2016-17.

Cass County commissioners on June 15 signed a memorandum of understanding on a mutual aid agreement and forwarded it for approval. Morton County commissioners unanimously OK'd it Tuesday. The document fills a federal requirement needed when counties seek reimbursement by the federal government for expenses incurred during times of emergency.

Cass has similar agreements in place with several other North Dakota counties, Cass County Emergency Manager Jim Prochniak said. Cass approached Morton County about the agreement after Morton personnel were sent to assist during recent protests in Fargo related to the national upheaval from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Seven deputies responded in one instance but were placed on standby because protest activity had waned. Six were sent when more protest plans were formed in the city. Deputies in that instance were not utilized because the protest stayed calm, according to Morton County spokeswoman Maxine Herr.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires that such an agreement be in place so a county can be reimbursed for expenses incurred when assisting another county, Prochniak said.

“Any time there is a disaster declared by a county and they ask for resources, equipment or personnel, if the disaster makes it to the federal level, the only way to get reimbursed is to have the agreement,” Prochniak said.

Counties during an emergency don’t have time to start the agreement process and get it ratified, he said. If the counties seek reimbursement from the Fargo protests, FEMA will consider the agreement even though it was signed after the fact. 

“It’s a preparedness thing,” Prochniak said.

The agreement between the two counties is “standard, the only one we use,” he said. It stays in place unless it is rescinded.

A memorandum of understanding was in place with counties that assisted in Morton County during the DAPL protests, but this agreement is different and not a renewal, according to Herr.

“There are discussions statewide about developing MOUs between all counties -- likely starting with the larger counties -- to provide mutual aid so we don’t have to rush to develop these when an emergency occurs,” she said.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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