County board still revising next budget

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Money was the big discussion item for the Edgar County Board study session Monday, Oct. 22.

The talk was mostly about the next budget and what areas must be increased.

Sheriff Jeff Wood attended the meeting and reviewed parts of the sheriff department’s budget. He said the proposed budget is similar to the current budget except more money is needed for correction officers at the jail.

“The state inspector’s biggest gripe is we don’t have two people on every shift,” said Wood. “I have added to my correction officers line item by two people so we can make the state happy.”

He told board members the department needs another $75,000 to cover the two new positions.

The jail currently has five corrections officers so there are generally two on duty during the day leaving one for the evening, one for the night shift and one covering swing duty.

“I think overtime will go down with the extra people,” said Wood, but he cautioned there are still times such as vacations, holidays or illness when only one person may occasionally be on duty despite the new hires.

The other issue with the new hires is getting them to the academy for training and certification. Wood said the department can send only one at a time and a

limited number of correction officers training academies are offered each year with the waiting list for admission sometimes up to 10 months long.

“The training requirement even applies to people who have retired from DOC or correction officers from other states. They still have to go through the academy,” said Wood.

The sheriff also informed board members he is planning on two new vehicles for 2019 by seeking grant funds but that is no guarantee of quickly acquiring a vehicle.

“The last grant took three years to get,” said Wood.

An unknown part of the budget for the sheriff and county board is how much of a raise deputies are going to receive and the amount of back pay they are due because of that raise. The county and the union were unsuccessful in negotiating a new contract and the matter went to binding arbitration. All parties are waiting on the arbitrator to release a decision.

Board member Derrick Lorenzen discussed a need to update the monitor and recording cameras at the jail, courthouse, annex, airport and health department. Wood supported the move noting all of the equipment is old and unreliable

Ross Carrell, the county’s I.T. specialist, said part of the improvement plan is to add cameras to cover areas that are blind spots under the current system.

This is a project that will require bidding. Lorenzen noted some of the work involves running fiber optic cables, which is specialized work.

Lorenzen also suggested asking the 911 board to contribute toward the project and seek money from the judges’ court security fund.

“We don’t have the money to cover that in one shot,” said Lorenzen.

One question before the board for the last few weeks concerned the ability to expand the special service area that taxes to support ambulance service for Hunter, Stratton, Elbridge, Symmes, Grandview, Buck and Paris townships. Expansion was under consideration as an option to assist the financially strained volunteer Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service (NECAS).

Board chairman Jeff Voigt shared a copy of the pertinent statute indicating a special service area can be expanded to include other areas provided there is no objection that meets the statutory limit. No voter referendum is required to take action.

Voigt urged any changes to the special service area be done prior to the county bidding out the contract to provide ambulance service, which means the county needs a decision soon from NECAS of how that organization wants to move forward.