March 05, 2014 | 09:12 AM
Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye officially requested five new officers Monday morning for the Harrison County Sheriff's Dept. at the board of commissioners first regularly scheduled meeting in March.
"The issue is manpower," Seelye said.
The total cost, worst-case scenario, would be approximately $475,000, including three new vehicles. The board passed an additional appropriation request of $550,000 to the county council, which will hear the request Monday night.
A salary for each officer position will be about $35,000, but, adding in all of the insurance, retirement, etc., it comes out to about $75,000 per officer per year, assuming family insurance is needed.
Seelye said Harrison County has one officer for every 1,734 people in the county. That compares to one for every 1,294 in Floyd County; one for every 552 in New Albany; 444 in Corydon; and 333 in Crawford County.
Floyd County has 30 officers and had 15,482 runs for service last year compared to Harrison County's 22 officers and 23,200 runs. Crawford County, with eight officers, had 6,718 runs.
Harrison County currently has 22 officers with a population of 38,148 (taking out the town of Corydon). With the five new officers, plus the already approved two school resource officers, the department would total 29 officers. That would bring Harrison County up to one officer for every 1,300 or so residents.
"We're just wanting to come up to the lowest comparison around," Seelye said.
All five officers will be on the road.
"They'll be in uniform, answering calls for service," Seelye said.
Seelye said the size of the county comes into play with the request as well. Harrison County has 798 road miles, and the entire land mass of the county totals 485 square miles.
"It takes 35 minutes to get from Palmyra to Laconia," he said.
Commissioner George Ethridge relayed a complaint he's heard that, if the officer request is approved, it'll become like a police state in the county.
"I don't believe that is the case here," Ethridge said. "It's more of a protect-and-serve department."
Seelye said, when he took over as sheriff, he told officers handing out speeding tickets would not impress him. He said arresting the people who are selling drugs and breaking into houses is the best way to impress him. Seelye said speeding tickets and public intoxications are actually down since he took over Jan. 1, 2011.
"They try to get people home safely if possible," Seelye said of public intoxication.
Since 1996, the department has grown by one officer, from 21 to 22, including the sheriff and chief deputy, while the runs for service have increased 142 percent and the population has increased 27 percent.
Since Seelye took office, overall arrests are up 20 percent; arrests for selling drugs are up 1,000 percent; burglaries, 130 percent; and thefts, 77 percent.
In other business Monday, county maintenance supervisor Danny Spencer requested funding for a new roof at the courthouse in downtown Corydon. He said a larger project, the jail roof, will have to be let out for bids.
The board also decided, after two special meetings regarding the personnel policy, to change the policy during winter weather. When the weather is bad enough to close county offices, only those designated emergency personnel (EMS, EMA, highway department, sheriff's department) will receive pay. And they will no longer receive double pay. Other hourly employees can elect to take a vacation, personal or sick day if they wish to be paid for the day off.
The commissioners' next meeting will be Monday, March 17, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.