Welcome aboard one more time as I struggle to produce a column worth reading. The employees of the sheriff's department have been busy this past week on a number of items.
Before I get into this week's activity, I should mention some past news that I failed to report at the time it happened. About two weeks ago, we lost one of our jail staff members who decided to quit. Fortunately we had another person who had applied to the department, who was not employed at the time, so we were able to fill the jail position in a flash. Then we had the same thing happen in dispatch this past week; we had an employee quit there and once again we had a person standing by who had some experience in the field so we were able to fill the position immediately. So at this time our training academy for both the jail and dispatch is once again in full swing with lots of overtime hours going on the books as we train our new employees while we deal with the demands of the job while operating with another employee shortage. In more simple words, business as usual for the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office.
As we near the end of 2009, the loss of the two deputy salaries back during the January budget battle continues to plague our efforts. At this time I have three deputies who have very strong leads they are working on criminal cases that they have already solved or they are about to break the case. Each of these deputies is trying to get the facts, evidence, and reports sorted out and completed so they can do a statement of probable cause for the prosecutor. However, because of our deputy shortage, each of the three keep getting sent to new calls each shift that also generate reports. It has become a vicious cycle and hopefully sometime in the near future these deputies can get caught up to the point where they can complete their probable cause statements so we can charge some people with crimes.
I would love to reclaim the two lost deputy positions for the 2010 budget year but two facts get in the way when I dream of adding these employees back to our roster. First, the simple fact of life is that the Pulaski County Commission had to borrow $150,000 to finish out the 2008 budget year. That led to the loss of our two deputy positions and the one-and-a-half employee positions in dispatch for 2009. The County Commission has not paid back the loan during the 2009 budget year. Second there has been no additional revenue source added to the Pulaski County funding programs. The city of St. Robert added a quarter cent sales tax this year, which boosted their sales tax rate to two and one quarter cents for each retail dollar spent in the city. In contrast, the Pulaski County rate is one half-cent per each dollar.
The combination of outstanding debt on the books coupled with no additional new income means the 2010 budget year will be very bleak, and that is without even considering the increase in the costs of goods and services due to inflation and other factors. I suspect my dream for the recapture of the two lost deputy positions will go down the drain. That will mean for the year 2010 the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office will continue to be a reactive organization with our work load.
Pulaski County will continue to be a haven for the bad guys and drug dealers who can operate with little risk. For those citizens who ask how a sheriff can make such a statement I offer the following facts. Pulaski County has 550 square miles of land with a nighttime population of at least 52,000 people. The daytime population of Pulaski County is much higher. We have a total of 13 paid deputies who can answer a call on a 24/7/365 basis for the year. Our sheriff's operating budget for 2009 was only $708,553; the rest of the budget went to the jail operation. During my five years in office, the budget has never contained a single penny for the purchase of a patrol car. I could go on with other facts, but by now you should have some idea of our inadequate law enforcement funding by the Pulaski County Commission. Bluntly said, when I look at what we have to work with, we do a tremendous job of law enforcement each year but there is so much more we could accomplish each year if we had the proper resources.
I would like to offer a public statement of appreciation for a job well done to Deputy Regina Utley for her work on a recent rash of burglary cases. It appears at this time that a number of crimes have been solved because of Deputy Utley. Her work in these cases was above the normal investigation standard and her overtime hours reflect her dedication to the job over the past several weeks. Thank you, Regina: As they say in the Ozarks, "You done good, kid."
I had a reader ask me for an explanation on the grant process and how the grant is handled at the Pulaski County Courthouse. He had a specific list of questions that covered a lot of ground. I am already at the magic word count for this column and the grant explanations will require a lot of space so that will have to wait until next week. Until then, drive with care and please do not put yourself in a position where you will have to look at the light bulb in our jail. The lights are on!