Welcome aboard one more time for another trip around Pulaski County with the deputies of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. It is a dull and dark day with light rain falling on our heads. I may have the minority opinion here but I am ready for some full-size sunshine for many days in a row. Is that too much to ask for?
Once again I am not sure where to start for today. It might be more accurate to say I do not want to start today, I want to relax today, but the word “column” appears in the dictionary before the word “relax,” so we might as well get started.
The meeting on the new jail study set for March 22 in front of the Pulaski County Commission has been the subject of a time change. The meeting will now start at 10:30 a.m. and the folks who will present the information have promised to cut down on the total time needed to present the study. I have had several questions about this meeting, so I will make a few statements that are designed to answer those questions.
The meeting is open to the public if you want to attend. Once the presentation is over, the presenter, Mr. Goldberg, has told me he will answer questions from the media so we will put on a mini press conference after the County Commission meeting.
This was a hard decision for me as I debated whether to fund the study or buy another car. I have funded the study from my civil fee fund and there will be no additional cost. The Commission does not have to make any decisions on March 22 and in fact I would not expect them to do so this early in the production process.
The study will attempt to answer a host of questions mainly from a financial or tax point of view. The current funding of the jail and future needs will be addressed. The basic proposal will be for a 124-bed jail with a design that would allow a future wing of 92 beds to be added to the new structure at a later date. We are talking a complete and ready-to-go jail with all equipment already installed. In short, open the door and walk the inmates into the jail.
I will tell you that there are a large number of issues to consider with the construction of a new jail. A new jail is not a simple project to fund or to build. The time factor will stretch for two full years from start to finish, and there will be costs to consider beyond the jail such as the necessary salary for the additional jail staff that will be needed, so there will be a lot of ground to cover at the meeting and if you want the information you may attend.
In other news, I have bad news to pass on to you. As you may recall, Deputy Jimmy Bench was mauled by two very large Great Dane dogs back in February. Deputy Bench has given me permission to announce that he will have surgery on his leg next week to correct the damage done by the dogs. The big problem is that the wounds are not healing and they will have to open up the leg to take corrective action. At this time, it appears that he will be off work for some time to come.
As our county has grown over the past several years, the danger to our deputies has also grown. We have had deputies on medical leave due to car wrecks, physical assaults, bullet wounds and now a dog attack. We have developed into an urban officer risk area and we are no longer the quiet rural community that many of you remember. Unfortunately, due to budget shortfalls, we continue to send our deputies into high-risk situations without proper backup. As long as we do that, we can expect to read about injured deputies. Our prayer will be that we never read about a deceased Pulaski County deputy in the line of duty.
The case number/call for service count today stands at 1,772 as of 7 a.m. on March 13. In looking back at column 12 for 2009, I find that I did not record the calls for service number in that column, so I cannot compare our current numbers to last year. I sense that we are ahead of the game for this year and will continue to be ahead for the rest of the year.
In other news, I would like to announce that Officer Gwen Miles of the Waynesville City Police Department will be joining our department on March 14. She made the decision to leave Waynesville some time back and she came out in the top position of our selection process. We look forward to seeing her in a brown uniform instead of a blue uniform.
I believe that wraps it up for this week, and as such, once again I will ask that you drive with care. I will also ask that you keep your actions legal. We do not want you or have room for you nor can we afford to have you in our current jail. So stay away from the jail but if you simply must visit us you will find that the lights are on.