Welcome aboard for another column full of thrills and chills. Sounds good right? Actually, for today’s column it was humor because for the past 10 days or so we have had a very quiet time with regard to our incoming calls for service. We usually do get these peaks and valleys with our calls for service. As you will recall, two weeks ago we were going crazy trying to keep up with the calls and the last few days we have been catching up on back paperwork. We do like the times when the calls are low.
So where do we stand on the calls for service this past week? We stand at 4,800 calls on Sunday, June 13. In 2009, the count was 4,229 and in 2008 the count for column number 25 stood at 4,763. So the numbers look about the same for each year.
As a side note, our jail roster on Sunday stands at 55 inmates. I believe that it was Thursday when we took three inmates to the Missouri Department of Corrections to begin their sentences. We have been averaging about 22 inmates in other jails of late, or $770 of our tax money down the drain each day that we house 22 inmates outside of Pulaski County. That would also work out to a nice $281,050 for the year and would put us over budget for inmate housing.
We hosted a short training class this past week that was put on by the PAM group. That’s Pipeline Association of Missouri and their focus is on the safety of the various underground pipelines that cross Pulaski County in a number of locations. We had about half our road deputies who were able to attend this session. The PAM group puts on a big class every year that is geared toward attendance by the higher level command staff members. Every one of our top commanders has been to at least one such training session.
I have been avoiding the big news of the week because I manage to work myself into a lousy frame of mind every time I think about this next topic. We had been in line to receive two deputy positions to replace the ones we lost in the 2009 budget year under a federal COPS grant. The grant would have paid us $191,204 to fully fund two deputy positions for three years. In year four, Pulaski County would have been responsible for the payment of around $64,000 to finish off the salary for the fourth year. The Pulaski County Commission’s approval was required in order to update our application and the commissioners turned down the chance to add the two deputies. The addition of two replacement deputy positions would have increased our road positions by sixteen percent.
We are in desperate need of more deputies to handle the 10,000 calls we expect this year. The lack of manpower affects every phase of our department’s activity and our ability to lock up the herds of drug pushers and burglars that infest our fine county. Never fear, we do a good job with our 1980 budget level resources. It is unfortunate that this is the year 2010 and we have had major growth over the past 20 years.
I am however cheered by the knowledge that not every person who lives in the unincorporated sections of Pulaski County are crooks. If I were a member of the Pulaski County Road and Bridge Department team, I would be devastated by the fact that everybody does drive on the roads in unincorporated Pulaski County. That is a nice way of saying that every time I feel sorry for myself over our lack of resources and manpower levels, I take a look at Eastern District Road Commissioner Bill Farnham’s workload with the manpower and resource levels he has at his command, and I immediately feel better. I used to think my job was impossible until I began comparing notes with Commissioner Farnham and I now know he gets top billing as the guy who does not stand a chance to get the job done in the fashion that it needs to be done.
That brings me to my main point for this topic. I read in the paper yesterday that the Commissioners actually talked about the need to raise more money for the Road and Bridge Department in order to get the job one. Well yes, that is so, but I have said the same thing for six years now talking about the need for a law enforcement tax. For six years I have been told, “Now is not a good time to put it on the ballot.” Bluntly said, the 1980 level of budgets for both the Sheriff’s Department and the Road and Bridge Department cannot cut the mustard with the demands of 2010. We must raise the income level available to the Sheriff’s Department and the Road and Bridge Department in order to give them the chance to actually succeed, because right now, their chance of success is the same as the survival rate of a snowball in Satan’s back yard.
If you want the service, then you must vote the dollars to make it possible. Over the past six budget years, the only consistent budget statement from the county commissioners to the sheriff has been cut, cut, cut, cut, and do without. We passed the point of no return some time back. I can only imagine the uproar if I were to pass on that message to the people who call in a burglary or an assault call. The citizens of Pulaski County want, need, and demand the best in law enforcement protection that they can get.
We SHALL give them the best level of service that we can squeeze from our inadequate budget and manpower levels, but I would be lying if I failed to say that we will fall short at times no matter how hard we try.
OK, time to get off the soapbox and close out today’s column. Please drive with care and please keep your actions legal. We will be over budget on inmate housing this year and we do not need your business, so stay away from our jail. However, the light bulb continues to burn bright.