Welcome aboard for another column. We seem to have made the transition from drowning to heat exhaustion in about 50 hours, but that is the way of Missouri weather. As of noon on Saturday, June 20, our case number/calls for service count stands at 4,410. The jail list on Friday had 64 names.
We have had three deputies drop out for medical reasons in the past five days, which leaves us very short on manpower. In order to give you a better idea how this type of sick rate hinders our short-handed department, I will give you a few details. On Thursday, June 18, we had two deputies start their day shift at 8 a.m. They worked all day, but by 4 p.m., both night-shift deputies who were due to start at 4 p.m. had called in sick, so both day-shift cars continued until 9 p.m. when the third-shift deputies came on the air. Thus, both of these day-shift deputies worked a 13-hour day.
The 13-hour shift did increase both deputies’ comp time by five hours, but due to the fact that this overtime occurred two days before the end of our special 28-day time accounting cycle, it will probably have an even bigger effect because it may well put both deputies over the 171-hour mark and that would mean the five hours of overtime would become 7.5 hours of premium federal overtime.
I probably should throw in a small explanation at this point on how the 171 FLSA law enforcement pay cycle works. It is computed on a 28-day basis. The deputies work 20 days at eight hours per day for a total of 160 hours and they have eight days off. But the federal premium overtime does not start until the 171-hour mark. The 11 hours between the 160 and 171 mark are “local comp time.” The 11-hour gap is straight time only.
If we had tried to call in some other deputy to work at 4 p.m., it not only would have disrupted the schedule but also most likely would have interfered with somebody’s day off. Since we were at the end of the pay cycle, any officer we called in would probably have gone over the 160-hour mark for the pay cycle as well, and we had no wiggle room to adjust the schedule because we were at the end of the pay cycle. So once again we achieved overtime that was added to the county’s bill payable sometime in the future.
Then there is the human cost. Deputies who constantly work overtime hours become tired, they make mistakes, their attitude suffers, and they are more accident-prone. Even worse, they may be slow to realize danger signals on their calls and that could lead to really big problems. They also know that the only way they will get their overtime pay is when they leave the department. Most of them do not want to leave the department, but they would also like to be paid for their work.
There is some news on the grant front.
A USDA grant for which we have applied is still up in the air and I do not know if we are eligible for the grant yet. The county clerk has mailed the requested financial information to the USDA representative but no word so far.
The grant for $14,249 worth of new equipment that I have been working on has gone away. The county commissioners have appropriated this grant to pay off some lawyer’s fees that are connected with the Juvenile Court system. I believe that this relates back to the big bill from 2008 that helped require the county commission to borrow the $150,000 at the end of the year in 2008. If I remember correctly, the Juvenile Court bill figure was $70,000, from December 2008. I do not know what or if there will be another big bill this year from the same source. But in any event, the equipment grant is gone.
We have been busy with our paper service. We got caught short on our paper service a few weeks ago and that created a disruption in the court system so we have modified our procedures once again to cope. Due to the budget cuts this year, we no longer have a dedicated full-time employee serving papers. We all do this job when we can and we have two part-time employees who do the paper service as their primary job but they still answer calls.
As we are now well into the summer months, we are feeling the effects from the loss of the 3.5 employees from the 2009 budget. Since we have not had any proposals brought forth this year to increase the available revenue for Pulaski County in the future, I must confess that I am wondering if I will lose any employees in the 2010 budget process. Bluntly said, we cannot afford to lose any more people. We are below the minimum requirements at this time. Any further cuts in 2010 will devastate the sheriff’s department and our ability to serve the citizens of this county.
Once again I will state my opinion that a half-cent law enforcement sales tax is desperately needed for not only the future of the sheriff’s department but also the future of Pulaski County government.
Once again it is time to close out the column. Please drive with care and please keep your actions legal because we do not need you in the jail. But we did pay the electric bill and the lights do work.