Sheriff’s budget to increase |

Sheriff’s budget to increase

Commissioners accept some of the expenses proposed for '09

Brandon Gee

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall

— Hoping to avoid a rehash of recent financial controversy, county commissioners and Routt County Sheriff’s Office personnel held a lengthy meeting Tuesday to hash out the department’s 2009 budget.

The combined Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center budget is poised to increase to $4.6 million in 2009, from $4.3 million in 2008. The proposed 2009 figure does not account for a number of small changes the commissioners directed at Tuesday’s hearing.

Projected overages in the 2008 budget prompted the county commissioners to take drastic steps this fall, such as instituting a Sheriff’s Office hiring freeze and limiting the department’s overtime and mileage. Sheriff Gary Wall has argued against those steps and defended the overages, noting that law enforcement is unpredictable and not an optional service.

During the past few months, the issue led to contentious meetings between the county’s top administrators and law enforcement officers. That was not the case at Tuesday’s meeting, which both sides described as a good and productive exercise.

“I think we have a better understanding as a result,” Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

As Wall silently hung back in the audience, his staff discussed a number of line items in the proposed 2009 budget. The commissioners approved some requested increases in the budget and denied others.

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“I think what happened today is just fine,” Wall said after the meeting. “(My staff) got to express the issues that they have to deal with, and I hope the commissioners have a better understanding of those issues. And (my staff) did a way better job than I could, because they deal with these issues every day.”

Commissioner Doug Monger described the decisions made at Tuesday’s meeting as a “face-to-face agreement.”

“We didn’t want to get into a situation like this year again,” Monger said. “With good management, it shouldn’t happen.”

Among the steps taken Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to budget $18,000 for a drying cabinet to be used by evidence technicians and $100,000 for food at the jail, which is $11,300 more than originally was proposed for 2009.

While the commissioners accepted the Sheriff’s Office’s justification for these and other expenses, they denied others. For example, the Sheriff’s Office requested that about $141,000 be budgeted for patrol overtime. Commissioners stuck with the $31,290 originally proposed in the 2009 budget, pending any changes that might result from a meeting between Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad and Sgt. Miles DeYoung of the Sheriff’s Office.