Police chief questioned while asking for additionals
Newly-appointed Harrison County Police Chief Eric Fischer was grilled Monday night by the county commissioners when he appeared at their meeting to ask for several additionals on behalf of the sheriff’s department.
Fischer, in his first time in front of the commissioners under his new title as chief, started with a request for $6,000 for the purchase of tires for police cars. He said he is aware the price of tires is going up, but he was unsure how much it affected their price.
‘It sounds like a reasonable request,’ said Commissioner James Goldman.
Commissioner Terry Miller wanted more information regarding the vehicle situation at the sheriff’s office.
‘I got a question and I hope I get some answers,’ Miller said. ‘You got 35 or 40 cars and 18 or 19 road officers. Why does the secretary drive cars, why (do) all kinds of other people drive cars that have no business (doing that)?’
Fischer, who was appointed chief a few weeks ago by his father-in-law, Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick, after Deatrick demoted his longtime chief, Gary Gilley, said the commissioners were putting him on the spot with the questions.
‘I can’t really answer that without stepping in a hornet’s nest,’ Fischer said.
‘I’m asking the question, so you let me step on it,’ Miller responded.
To Miller’s question of exactly how many road officers there are under Fischer’s command, the chief said there are 20, not including his and the sheriff’s vehicles.
Goldman said at the last Harrison County Council meeting, council members brought the issue up regarding who is driving county vehicles and will be asking for accountability. He said it’s probably going to be something to look into further.
‘It’s a touchy subject,’ Fischer said.
‘It’s touchy here, too,’ said Miller.
The commissioners voted to send the additionals request for tires to the council.
Fischer followed up that request with another, for $80,000 in additional fuel costs, which he said would hopefully be for the remainder of the year.
Commissioner J.R. Eckart expressed his concerns over the purchase of gas from somewhere other than the Harrison County Highway Dept. He said he would rather put fuel money in a specified account that could only be used at the highway department, rather than giving police officers, or other county employees who may drive a county car, an opportunity to fill up anywhere.
Goldman explained there are two effects of outside vendor purchasing on the county as a whole. One, the purchases cost about 20 cents more per gallon and, two, it reduces the amount of fuel the county needs to buy, which reduces the rate the county gets.
Miller made a motion to take the request under advisement, but told Fischer to come back to the commissioners in two weeks with specific numbers regarding the vehicles, who drives them and why they need those vehicles. Miller also told Fischer to have recommendations for people ‘ not road officers ‘ who do not need to be driving, so those vehicles could be set aside. Eckart seconded the motion.
Fischer went on to request an additional $140,000 for inmate meals and $169,896.50 for equipment for police vehicles. Joyce Deatrick, the sheriff’s wife who is also the matron, calculated the cost of inmate meals at $1.84 a meal, with three meals a day. The jail has been averaging 160 inmates per day. That additional was approved to be sent to the council, but the funds requested for equipment were whittled down significantly.
Fischer came with equipment requests for 25 portable radios in connection with the new 800 MHz (megahertz) radio system to be installed in the county’s dispatch center, at a cost of $2,918 per radio; a programming template, at a cost of $450; 11 ML910 laptops, each at a cost of $6,058; a camera server to download and store data from DP2 car cameras; and an airtime service agreement with AT&T for wireless transmitting for 22 radio units.
Goldman said since the radio system is not yet installed in dispatch, there was no need for any radio-related costs.
‘There’s no use at all for them today,’ he said of the radios. ‘There’s no supporting system.’
Eckart concluded what was really needed was the camera server and the 11 laptops, for a reduced cost of $85,496.50.
‘I think you ought to have good equipment to work with,’ Goldman told Fischer.
The motion, for $85,496.50, passed and was sent to the council.
Also Monday night, Corydon attorney David Layson came to the commissioners on behalf of a client whose property borders a stretch of unused road on Capitol Boulevard that is not currently being maintained by the county. Layson said his client is interested in either having the county begin to maintain the part of the road or deed it back to him. If the commissioners won’t or can’t maintain it, Layson asked for suggestions as to what to do regarding transferring ownership.
‘I don’t know that it’s feasible for the county to ever do something like that,’ Eckart said.
The county was given the deed to the road sometime in the ’60s, Layson said, though he couldn’t find any mention in the commissioners’ records from that time period regarding the deeds.
‘Is there any obligation to maintain it because we accepted it?’ Goldman asked county attorney John Colin.
Colin was unsure exactly what could legally be done, so the commissioners voted to take the issue under advisement to allow Colin to research and report back.
In other matters Monday night, the commissioners:
‘ Heard Jill Saegesser of River Hills Economic Development District present the Blue River Services Facility Grant for the chairman to sign. She also gave to the commissioners the sub-recipient agreement and the certificate of completion for the Spencer Township firehouse to be signed.
‘ Heard Jon Kuss with Hoosier Hills PACT request the annual renewal of the Dept. of Corrections grant. The money allows them to provide services for the jail.
‘ Heard a request for $900 from the Harrison County Health Dept. for rent for the first six months of 2008.
‘ Heard a request from Shawn Donahue to accept the receipt of two grants from the state, each totaling $10,000, that pay a portion of his salary.