More time sought to gather rescue boat funds

Published 12:04 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sheriff’s officials are asking the state for more time to match a federal grant for a search-and-rescue boat for the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, while desired raises for that department and in the Road Department highlight budget requests submitted to county officials.

A budget smaller than this year’s $15.03 million budget through continued cuts and less support for outside organizations appears likely as all five supervisors try to avoid a millage increase heading into an election year in 2011. Still, initial requests of the largest departments show department heads asking for more money and equipment.

In October, supervisors agreed in principle to match a $204,375 grant from the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security to buy a 25- to 30-foot boat, similar to ones used by the U.S. Coast Guard for maritime responses. Sheriff Martin Pace said his office has asked the state for more time beyond an Oct. 1 deadline to come up with the money.

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“We’ve worked with them to see whether or not we can get an extension on it,” Pace said. “I still feel strongly it would be beneficial to public safety.”

The boat, for which grant money was also awarded to the state’s Gulf Coast-centered Department of Marine Resources, would join the 19-foot boat the department already uses for emergency response and patrol on the Mississippi River and inland lakes.

A truck, trailer and storage space aren’t funded by the grant and don’t appear in this year’s wish list, submitted each year by the county’s departments, offices and other entities funded by the county’s general fund and other revenue sources.

Raises totaling 10 percent appear for all 54 non-jail sheriff’s department employees, including investigators, deputies and clerical personnel. An inmate population manager — suggested strongly by consultants hired to study the size and scope of a new jail — appears as a new position, at $45,650 annually. An extra $22,000 is needed to purchase 10 new patrol vehicles, according to the sheriff’s office’s $3.7 million request, up by $403,280 over what supervisors approved for 2009-10. The department is seeking similar raises for 19 positions at the jail, plus two more part-time and three full-time jailers.

Pay hikes of 5 percent appear in the Road Department budget and are tied to cost of living. The department maintains about 75 employees from year to year. Five pickups, two dump trucks and other equipment could make for a $276,000 capital expense plan for the coming year, plus another $85,000 to add a grass mower to handle the south end of the county.

Costs for asphalt and rock, an annual concern for local government for about a decade now, may cause crews to become pickier when it comes to routine repairs, department manager Richard Winans said in the request.

“At the current cost, we are spending the same money for about half as much material. This means we have to be selective in the repairs to drainage systems and right of ways throughout the county,” Winans said.

More budget requests from entities funded by the county are expected to be turned in by July 26, when supervisors kick off a week of budget discussions. Other requests submitted so far include lists from both circuit court judges, highlighting the need for updated equipment for court reporters and raises for all personnel. In recent years, county supervisors have been compelled to approve pay hikes only via a bench order.

The Board of Supervisors has equalized land rolls valued at $3,504,755,820, up 1.9 percent from a year ago. They are now available for public view at the courthouse, with written objections from property owners concerning their property value accepted through the Aug. 2 “objection hearing.”