BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – In a clear sign that Lee County Supervisors stand squarely behind their newly elected sheriff, it was recommended Tuesday that two new deputies and possibly a full-time additional correctional officer be added to the sheriff’s budget.
At Tuesday’s Lee County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, during the budget workshop, supervisors looked at the preliminary budget, specifically items that had come up during the budgeting process that weren’t included in original department budgets.
The county budget has to be finalized by the end of February to allow time for public hearings before final approval and being submitted to the state.
Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber was on hand to discuss his budget, which includes costs associated with bringing on a service dog. Weber’s original budget submitted to the board in December didn’t include the dog, but Lee County Budget Director Cindy Renstrom included it in the revised budget submitted on Tuesday.
Weber had also wanted to upgrade the county’s video court system to be compatible with Des Moines County. He said Des Moines county had upgraded its system and now Lee County’s was not compatible. That upgrade, too, was included in the revised budget.
When questioned by supervisors on Tuesday, Renstrom said Weber was still hoping to add two deputies to “backfill” the department so he could promote two current deputies, as well as the part-time C.O.
The two deputies weren’t heavily discussed and Rick Larkin, chairman of the board instructed Renstrom to add the deputies to the budget after not getting any push back from the other supervisors.
Supervisor Don Hunold told Weber to refigure his calculations on the part-time because it could actually be a cost-savings to hire a full-time C.O. and replace the part-time positions. Weber indicated that he was running at about 500% to his overtime budget so far this year and he said it is difficult to find and keep part-time people.
“What happens is they get a taste for it and then they go to the prison which is a higher paying, full-time gig. I’ve got some professional people down there now, but I didn’t want to come into this heavy-handed and ask for a bunch of stuff,” Weber told the board.
“If you’re paying these three part-timers and have any OT, this could be a wash or we may even save some money hiring someone full time,” Hunold said. “I’d like to see those numbers before moving on.”
Weber said he would have those numbers by the end of the day, but was very happy with the reaction to the requests.
“I was very pleased with that,” Weber said. “I’m glad the board is seeing things this way. I’ve been giving them tours and working with them. And like I said at the meeting, I’ll do whatever they need me to and work with the budget they give me. But I’m very happy with today’s discussions.”
If the budget is finalized with the two new deputies, Weber said he will promote one deputy to the rank of detective and another to a full-time evidence clerk who would also be responsible for video requests and that type of evidentiary processing.
The dog would be used as a multi-service animal for drug searches, people searches and in situations where deputies need back up or assistance with an offender. The dog could also be used to help keep order in the jail when not tasked out.
Again, the budget is still in the reviewing stage and will not be finalized until all recommendations and hearings have been held.