June 20, 2021

COMMUNITY OUTREACH: Jasper County Sheriff’s Office holds open discussion with Sully residents

Town hall draws questions about animal control, theft and ‘gypsy asphalt pavers’

Sully residents shared their concerns, complaints and praise with Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty and his deputies during a Tuesday, May 11 community outreach event in the town square park.

Conversations varied and no topic was off limits. Everything from animal control to theft and what one person described as “gypsy asphalt pavers” were discussed openly in an effort to build connections with the community.

Pastor Wayne Sneller of the First Reformed Church in Sully spoke of his and another’s experience keeping track of solicitors. Trying to stay aware of them is challenging, and he asked if the sheriff’s office could keep the church informed

“About two years ago we had a group of ‘gypsy asphalt, driveway pavers’ and whatnot … and I called one of the sheriffs,” Sneller said. “Is there any way that you have a central point to let us know what’s going on?”

Tracy Cross, of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, said the department doesn’t usually get word of the asphalt pavers or other solicitors “until after they’ve done their act.” If they do get word early, the sheriff’s office uses social media.

“But if you guys see those kinds of people that are only here for a short time or there’s a bunch of ‘em and doing possibly some shoddy work — let us know,” Cross said. “If they’re gone it doesn’t do us any good.”

Animal control in small communities

In April, the Sully City Council approved a 28E Agreement with Jasper County for animal control services. One resident inquired about what that meant for the city and sheriff’s office. Halferty first cleared up some misconceptions.

Despite its name, the Jasper County Animal Rescue was not operated by the county government, Halferty said. Last year, the facility closed and forced the county and cities to seek alternatives for animal control services.

For now, the county partners with Parkview Animal Hospital in Newton to handle boarding of lost dogs. However, animal control is not primarily handled by the sheriff’s office, but rather the staff in community development.

“With all of our contract towns we don’t enforce nuisance issues,” Halferty said. “If there’s a dog bite or a vicious animal we would come out and assist with that. There’s a good agreement in place right now.”

Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma said the only other town that hasn’t signed the 28E Agreement with the county is Oakland Acres. Talsma said the county is going to proceed without the City of Oakland Acres.

“It’s going to be on the board’s agenda next week for the board (of supervisors) to sign, and the contract with Parkview will be on that as well for us to lease a second kennel space from them,” Talsma said.

After JCARL closed, Talsma said the county realized some level of animal control services needed to be established. Jasper County needed some place to house the animals and someone to respond to calls

“And unfortunately Sheriff Halferty and his staff have about a million other things that are more important to be dealing with than chasing a lose dog around the community,” Talsma said.

Confronting criticisms and concerns

Halferty asked for a tough question, and he got one from Craig Maasdam.

The Sully man recalled an incident a year-and-a-half ago when his business was burglarized. Shortly after, Maasdam said he saw his stolen merchandise for sale on Facebook Marketplace and reported it to the sheriff’s office.

“You did nothing,” he said. “I even came in a week-and-a-half later and said they’re still for sale … You did have proof the stuff was there. Why couldn’t you go get my merchandise? No one even made an attempt.”

Maasdam said the stolen motorcycle jackets were worth up to $2,000. One of the coats still had the price tag on it from the store, he added. The Sully business owner did not understand why nothing was accomplished.

Very seldom does the sheriff’s office see property returned in burglaries cases, Haflerty said. The sheriff agreed a lot of stolen items will make their way to places like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

“It is difficult to prove,” he said. “They use fake profiles. They do different things. It can be a challenge … I’m always going to defend our staff. And if we make a mistake, we’ll definitely deal with it.

Maasdam added, “Well, I’m not saying you made a mistake.”

Halferty continued, “You are. So what we need to do is we have to follow rules. I could tell you right now I could go to the majority of every drug dealer in this county that — if I didn’t have to follow the rules — we could kick their door in.”

The sheriff sympathized with Maasdam, saying he has been a victim of theft, too. Halferty told the man the sheriff’s office will follow-up with him, even though they both acknowledged it’s too late to do anything about it.

“Maybe we can’t change the past, but that’s one of the reasons we’re here,” Halferty said. “… We’re getting challenged constantly in the case law. It sounds like an excuse, but it’s the facts, folks. The case law is changing daily.”

Oftentimes the sheriff’s office deputies have to contact the county attorney on any major case to get permission or guidance.

“But I do understand and empathize with you,” Halferty said. “If there’s something we can do better next time, we’ll look at it. It doesn’t change the past but we’ll certainly try to get better.”

Two more community outreach events will be held at 6:15 p.m. May 18 at the Holmdahl Park shelter house in Kellogg and 6:15 p.m. May 20 at the Mingo Community Shelter Center.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.