There is no shortage of heroes in Pine County, both two legged and four legged. At the Pine County board meeting on Feb. 4, various law enforcement departments and members of the community came together to recognize two of their own.
Chewy, faithful K9 partner of the late Deputy Ben Neel since 2016, retired from his distinguished service as a member of Pine County’s Sheriff Office. Chewy will live out the rest of his days with the Neel family. Chewy was a valuable asset to Pine County Law Enforcement and “made Deputy Neel a better deputy,” said Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson. An award honoring Chewy for his years of dedication and service was presented to Jennifer Neel, widow of Officer Neel.
In honor of Deputy Neel, Mark Donough of Donough K9 is donating a canine replacement along with the necessary training for a deputy handler. The amount of this gift is $17,500.Also, in Neel’s honor, a resolution was passed naming the Pine County Sheriff’s gun range located in Sandstone as the “Benjamin Neel Gun Range.”
In other county board business:
• Since 2016, The Pine County Auditor’s office along with loans from the Clean Water Partnership (CWP) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), have helped citizens with low-interest loans to replace their non-compliant septic systems. Pine County is the only county in eastern Minnesota with this program. The current loan program expires July 31, 2020. Kelly Schroeder from the Pine County Auditor’s office requested approval to submit a proposal to extend the program another three years. The board approved the proposal.
• In 2019, the Pine County Coroner’s office reported 197 deaths, 20 more than in 2018. There were six motor vehicle-related fatalities, one motorcycle death; methamphetamine was present in two of the cases. Four deaths were due to substance abuse, one drowning, one house fire, two complications from falls, five suicides and the remaining deaths due to natural causes.