BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A new Lee County Sheriff’s deputy that had been slated for hire in the 2017-2018 budget year, will be brought on as soon as possible due to shortages in the department and budget issues.
Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said he has two deputies out for personal reasons and the overtime to staff the open positions would cost more than $10,000 over the next two months. At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, the board voted 5-0 to go ahead with the hiring.
It’s been a busy first 100 days and that’s putting it lightly,’ Weber said. “We do have some deputies that are off and we are having to fill vacancies with overtime. I’m just here to ask if this is a possibility.”
Instead of having two detectives working cases, one has been pulled and is working the streets, Weber said.
He said the position is not in the current budget but neither is the overtime. Weber said the overtime has depleted his budget as well as feeding an incrementally higher population at the jail.
He said the average daily population has been in the high 70s but they’ve been in the 80s many times.
“We’re at the point where we’re feeding them pop-tarts for breakfast, But we’ve gotta feed them.”
The department gets their meals for about $3.50 each from the Iowa State Penitentiary, but Weber said after the meeting that not even he thought the jail population would increase as quickly as it has.
With the increase in daily jail population, Weber said the account for meals has been depleted for the fiscal year through June and the department is now using reserve funds to offset the costs of the meals.
Lee County and Des Moines County have an unofficial partnership in helping house offenders, but it was more of sharing agreement, but now he says there is a daily charge of $60 to house inmates.
“We always helped each other out. For a while we weren’t prepared to handle the rowdies. We are now, but now sometimes we help them out or if their female population gets high we take some for them. We’ve got a really good female set up. But we do charge to house their offenders now.”
Weber also said sometimes personnel issues can result in sharing offenders, if for example, a family member of a staffer is incarcerated, the two counties work together on those issues. He said only six or seven of the current population is from Des Moines County.
Another cut as part of the budget crunch is the body cams. County Auditor Denise Fraise said the department will be delaying the purchase of body cameras in this budget year.
“The budget’s not going to allow them to do it,” she said.
Weber said the original plans were to do a five-year lease on state-of-the-art equipment with all the bells and whistles, but with the overtime and meals taking such big bites out of the funds, he said the department was scrapping the idea until July.
“We budgeted $31,000 for next year. We met with a company that can outfit our cars and deputy body cameras for that one year’s amount,” Weber said.
“Bottom line is with the expenses piling up we realized our overtime is going through the roof and I don’t want to keep going back to the board and asking for money.”
He said the $31,ooo will allow the department to replace any cameras that are down and put cameras on the deputies.
“It’s probably not as high of a grade as we have now, but we can still put a camera on the deputies and put cameras in the cars.
Eventually, Weber said he would like to have cameras on all the reserves as well as the deputies.