Welcome aboard one more time for another trip around Pulaski County with the deputies of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. Help! I am being held a prisoner in my own home by Mr. Snow. Well at least that is the way it feels right now.
I traded in my small front-wheel-drive patrol car this past fall for a rear wheel drive full-size patrol car. Right now, today, that seems to have been a mistake, but I know that the snow will pass and responding to crimes in progress in a fully equipped vehicle is much safer than my former little car so I guess I should shut up for now. However, I do wish we had more 4x4 vehicles for the department. Then again, we just finished budget number six for my time in office and my perfect record of not one penny for a car purchase in the budget is still standing. Repeat, not one cent for the purchase of a car in six years. If you do not see this as a major financial failing for the county, then I do not know how to explain it to you. We still make house calls and cars are critical equipment for us.
My former chief deputy, the infamous Hondo Wooten, always told me that we should adopt a common Honduran method of police response that is used in some of their smaller population centers: if you want a police officer at your house, you send a fully prepaid round-trip taxi to the police station. The officer responds to your home in the taxi, takes care of business, and then returns to the station. Alternatively, I guess I could still put the hitching rack in front of the office for our new four-legged short distance response unit. I am sure we have room to stack the hay by the side of the courthouse.
Hopefully by now you are all laughing a bit to brighten up a very snowy and dreary day in the Ozarks. So far, the deputies have been able to respond in a reasonable time. The local Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers are taking numerous hits, or maybe I should say the median barrier cable on I-44 is taking numerous hits, along with a large number of ditches, trees, other cars, and so forth as the latest snow accident toll mounts. If you do not have to get out in this stuff then stay home. If you think you must get out, then take a minute and please rethink the idea.
I just checked with dispatch and our current calls for service/case number count stands at 641. For the same time last year the total was 609. Hopefully we do not exceed last year’s count which was down just a hair from the year before, but I suspect this snow storm will add a bunch of numbers to the total.
On the budget front, the 2010 Pulaski County budget has been completed and formally adopted by the Pulaski County Commission. I have very mixed feelings about this budget. I had put spots for two deputy slots into this budget and they both got whacked. One of these slots was an attempt to regain a lost position from 2008. The second slot was one that had been empty for a short time in 2009 and it was also eliminated, but because of the new federal evidence room position, one person transferred into the grant position and that opened up a salary line for us to hire another deputy for 2010. The bottom line here is that we will have status quo in deputy positions for 2010.
While I am very unhappy that we were not able to advance the department forward for 2010, I also understand in this day and age of massive budget cuts in government spending that, bluntly said, a status quo situation is very close to a win-win situation. I routinely talk to elected sheriffs all over Missouri and many of them have been cut off at the knees by drops in local revenue. I know one sheriff with a $7 million budget who had to cut 40 percent of his budget. Compared to him, we are standing tall and in good shape. I know that we as a county are in fairly good shape for these hard economic times; after all, our local sales tax base has never declined. It may not have risen very high above the previous year, but the figures were upward in nature. However, as the CEO of the sheriff’s department, I view it as my job to push for advances in manpower and equipment in order for us to better safeguard the county. My job is to push hard and if that attitude offends anyone I do not know what to say to you.
On Friday, I was able to commit to the purchase of another vehicle. This one will be a 2005 Ford with 94,000 miles. The full purchase price was $5,155. I would like to thank the Board of Directors of the Pulaski County Law Enforcement Restitution Fund (CLERF) for their support with this purchase. They are funding $2,500 toward the car and my civil fee fund will pick up the remainder of the cost. Maj. Tom Cristoffer told me Friday that he only needed about one more work hour and the wrecked car we recently bought will be ready to issue to a deputy. Hopefully we can pick up this newest car soon and he can get to work on this unit.
Once again, I seem to have run out of words. Please drive with extreme care during the next few snow days here in Pulaski County and please stay out of our jail. We do not want your business, but if you must visit the jail lights are bright.