Sheriff asks county to add new post

Some members of the Fayette County Board told Sheriff Chris Smith that based on the county’s financial position, they cannot support his request to hire someone to help him with administrative duties.
Other members said that they might be willing to re-evaluate that request later this year, if there is improvement in the county’s finances.
Smith asked the board to consider allowing him to hire an undersheriff, an employee who would have responsibilities similar to a chief deputy but would also have additional duties.
The county board eliminated the chief deputy position, due to finances, late in 2012.
Board member Jake Harris, chairman of the sheriff’s committee, said that the committee discussed the request. “We felt that (Smith) is pretty taxed as the sheriff.”
Smith said that while he understands that “it’s bad timing,” based on the county finances, but added, “I firmly believe the (undersheriff) would be a positive cash flow position.”
He said that the undersheriff could be responsible for preparing applications for grants, help out with a commercial vehicle enforcement program, and assist with patrols and other duties handled by deputies.
Smith said that he and Jail Administrator J.D. Vieregge have been handling patient transfers to cut down on overtime expenses and that he’s put in a lot of extra hours since being elected last November.
Having a commercial vehicle enforcement program, Smith said, is “big money for the county,” and he noted the revenue coming in through arrests.
“There is a big, big difference” in the number of arrests since he took office, Smith said. “There’s got to be some good money coming in on arrests and warrants.”
He also told board members that county officers are working construction zones, where speed limit violators are hit with big fines.
Smith said that with the revenue his office is generating, he could fund the new position. “I’m not going to hire the position and not have the money available (for that salary). We will bring in more money than what you decide what that person makes.
“One grant (could) pay for (the position),” Smith said.
In making the request, Smith has suggested $55,000 as a starting point on salary discussions.
“I definitely need some help,” he said. “That person can do a lot – it’s an important position.”
Vieregge said that Smith has been working 12-14 hours a day and that he “can only do that for so long” and that
deputies can’t help him where he needs help.”
Board member Joe Kelly said that it’s “probably a good idea” to create that position, but “the state keeps taking money away from us.”
Board member John Daniels said he couldn’t support Smith’s request because “financially, we’re not any better off than we were then (when the chief deputy was eliminated). We need to (be able to) pay for what we have now.”
Vice Chairman Jeff Beckman said that with new Gov. Bruce Rauner proposing cuts to local governments, it would be prudent “to see what happens with the state.”
Chairman Steve Knebel agreed that it’s a good idea to wait and see what happens with the county’s budget this year.
“You know I support law enforcement,” Knebel said. “(But) I would really like to see a few more months (of) money first. It would be irresponsible to do it this quick.”
Knowing that the timing for his request was “bad,” Smith said he hoped that the board might consider it again at the beginning of July or August.

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