Welcome aboard for one more visit with the employees of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office. It has been a very busy week for me this week and apparently a very busy week last week. Or maybe it is just that my memory is going somewhere I do not need it to go.
Many of you missed last week's column. And there was a good reason why column #16 did not grace your newspaper covers. It seems that after I went to all the trouble of writing column #16 last Saturday I forgot to send it out to the media on Monday. This failure probably rates higher than a mere oops! The column last week was very good. If you look on the local Internet sites you can find it for a late reading. I promise that I will send out the column this week to all the media.
All I can say is that the past several weeks have been extremely demanding on my time. Between responding to calls and trying to write several federal grants I have been one extremely busy old guy. And old guys of course need extra beauty sleep. I seem to need more than most old guys. I will blame the extra job stress and lack of sleep for the failure to communicate the column.
In one sense I gave up this week. I stayed home on Thursday and Friday to make sure that I was able to complete the two federal grants whose deadline is next Wednesday. I cannot get any sustained writing work done at the office because I keep getting interrupted constantly. And the bottom line is that these two grants are critical to the survival of the department and they had to be my highest priority for the week. If I missed your call or visit I am sorry but the grants had to come first.
Since I have written two books so far I thought these federal grants would be an easy task for me. Wrong! The writing requirements for these complex pieces of federal grant paper make me think I might have graduated from the third grade. It has been a very frustrating two weeks. Right now we have one grant completed and turned in for review. This grant asks for two replacement deputies for the positions we lost in the 2009 budget crunch. If we are successful the feds will pay the first three year's salary and all we have to do is pick up their pay for the fourth year. So in effect we get four years of deputy work for one year's pay. It is one heck of a deal and every police agency in the United States is applying for this grant. The competition will be fierce and the awards will be scarce.
But the chase for the other two grants will be even worse. In these grants the feds will pay for up to two years worth of salary and the county would not be required to retain the new employees after the grant period ends. In these grant applications you only have to explain how you will TRY to retain the new employees. I suspect the better your "try explanation" reads, the better your chance for the grant to be awarded to you. But the prospect of free, free, free, employee salary money should bring out every agency in the world to apply for these grants.
On the positive side, if we were to succeed with all three of these grants, then for the next two years or so we would be in good shape. These three federal grants would add two deputy positions, two dispatch positions, five jail staff positions and one evidence control officer. And we would only be obligated to pay for the deputies for one year. Hopefully by the end of the grant period we would have figured out a way to retain the new employees instead of sliding backward into the past. I suspect there will be a lot more written on that topic if we are successful in obtaining the grants in the first place.
In other news, the summer swarm seems to have started. The word "swarm" refers to the beginning of the back-to-back calls without a break we usually get during the summer. Our tempo of 96-hour involuntary mental commitments to our assigned mental hospital in St. Louis has increased of late. The number of warrants and other criminal papers coming down to us from the Circuit Court has also increased. We find ourselves with an abundance of work and inadequate numbers of employees to handle the job.
The calls for service/case number count as of 8:35 a.m. on Sunday morning stood at 2,493. At this same time last year, the count stood at 2,986 so our slight downward trend continues. Of course last year we had two more deputies on the payroll than we do this year so I suspect we are close to the same work pace as last year but with fewer deputies to respond to calls it just seems like we are much busier this year.
We have started the process of changing over the used Phelps County cars that we purchased into Pulaski County cars. We appear to have done very well on this deal and we ended up with two very solid used cars for our fleet. I cannot wait to see them on duty so to speak.
Our jail list stood at 57 last week on the morning that we took eight inmates to the Department of Corrections. I came in the next morning expecting to see the number 49 on the jail list and instead found 54 inmates listed. The sudden change in the total numbers on the inmate list can drive you crazy some days. And at $35 per inmate housed elsewhere, it can also break your piggy bank.
The issue of payments to other counties to house our inmates is still a hot topic with me. We paid out $419,426 last year and I would like to see that money used in Pulaski County instead of Miller or Phelps County. So in the partial words of Martin Luther King Jr., "I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream." Speaking for myself, I dream of a new jail on the Waynesville city square. A jail large enough to hold all our inmates at arm's length. A jail that will employ our local citizens, that will eliminate our wasted gas and travel time expense, that will ease the burden of justice. I have a dream.
But for now the nightmare will continue. So please drive with care and please keep your actions legal, otherwise the citizens of the other counties will welcome more of our money. But once again if you just have to come visit with us you will find that the jail lights are on!