|Mon, Dec 09, 2013 01:51 PM
|Issue of November 27, 2013
September 04, 2013 | 11:05 AM
Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye visited the Harrison County Council last week to discuss the budget for 2014. Unlike the past couple of years, Seelye did not ask for any new employees; instead, he requested a significant increase in overtime, from $120,000 to $200,000 for the year.
Seelye's request also included increases for management positions, including captain and lieutenants. As of now, the captain and lieutenants make $17.82 per hour, which is not much higher than the lowest-ranking officers, who make $16.71.
"The leaders are making the same thing as the guys working under them, or close," he said.
As for the overtime request, last year the department received $40,000 for the sheriff's general fund budget, $40,000 for riverboat officers (10 officers) and $40,000 for the jail.
This time around, Seelye requested $50,000 for the sheriff's budget and riverboat officers and $100,000 for the jail. According to a jail inspection report, Seelye said the jail is understaffed by 15 corrections officers. The jail has a total of 29 officers and the sheriff's department has 22.
Along with being short in the jail, part of the increase in overtime is due to so much training conducted by the department.
"When we send someone to training, someone has to work overtime to fill in," Seelye said. "We don't have enough people to say 'just go do training and we're not going to cover your shift'."
Seelye said the training has definitely paid off. Before he took office and enforced the training, the officers could not investigate Class A or B felonies.
"We now investigate anything," he said.
The department now has an operational Emergency Response Team (ERT), similar to a SWAT team.
He said five officers have been trained in homicide, which greatly helped with the Aug. 3 double-murder near New Salisbury.
"They did a bang-up job," Seelye said of the homicide team.
The department also now has two trained snipers, Gary Gilley and Nick Smith.
Councilman Gary Davis said overtime cannot be the long-term answer because of the "burn-out" factor for the officers.
Seelye agreed and said many officers already have experienced burn-out.
But, Davis said, the cost of hiring 15 more corrections officers, as the study suggested the jail needs, would cost more than $1 million.
"We don't have $1 million; we don't have a half million," he said.
Seelye said for now they will request no new employees and will continue to pay for the majority of the training out of commissary.
Also presenting his budget that night was Coroner Rusty Sizemore, who took the time to say he's learned so much with the help of Seelye's trained officers.
The council continued budget hearings last week and will begin going line-by-line through the budget during workshop session beginning Tuesday.