GALLIPOLIS – At year’s end, the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office will have to overcome a projected $200,000 deficit, according to a recent discussion held at a Gallia County Board of Commissioners meeting.
During a meeting on Tuesday, Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning, Chief Deputy Dick Grau, Work Release Supervisor Sgt. Kevin Werry and Administrative Assistant Heather Casto approached the commission to discuss their budgetary concerns and to request the funds needed to meet their outstanding bills.
The sheriff’s office representatives discussed the three separate budgets managed by their department: the sheriff’s line, which includes the sheriff’s office road patrol, the Gallia County Jail and the Gallia County Work Release Center.
Casto reported a projected $22,000 deficit in salaries within the sheriff’s line. The approximately $3,500 needed for supplies and repairs can be covered by other unexpended funds within that budget, according to Casto.
While one full-time road patrol deputy who was laid-off following beginning-of-year 14 percent budget reductions has been rehired full-time, Browning reported that two other full-time patrol deputies have been re-hired on a part-time-only basis. One of these deputies has reportedly also been working within the corrections department part-time and the second deputy is being utilized on an as-needed basis.
The three full-time investigators who were dislocated to the road patrol portion of the department following budget cuts, are still employed as road patrol deputies, and no officers are currently working in investigations.
During the discussion, County Commission President Harold Montgomery questioned whether the sheriff’s office would necessarily need to employ detectives in groups of three as has been done in the past.
“We can use any that we get,” Browning answered. “Geographically, the way the county is laid out, since I’ve been here, three has pretty much been the norm. There has been as high as four, but if you have one for the north, central and south part of the county, it seems like they can handle it a lot better when it comes to responding to crime issues.”
Grau also reported that the past use of three detectives has allowed the deputies employed in that capacity to better handle their case loads. This set-up also allows for one detective to remain “on call.”
“It also allows us to kind of work their cases so that, if one happens to be off, there’s still that availability for one of them to jump in and take it. It also allows us to have an ‘on call’ detective during the course of the weekends and holiday reporting periods,” Grau said.
According to Browning, it is also estimated, through the Gallia County 911 Center, that there have been approximately 5,500 calls for service thus far in 2012.
Within the Gallia County Jail, a projected $119,000 will be needed for contract services. Contract services includes out-of-county housing contracts for the housing of inmates in other counties. Reportedly, only $110,000 of this projected amount in contract services was included in the request to the commission, the most pressing of which is the amount owed to the Middleport Jail.
“Our largest bill that we have as far as out-of-county housing has been to Middleport, and that is pretty much due to female housing,” Browning stated. “We were holding females here in the main jail. When we starting phasing in some reductions, we thought it would be more of a benefit to us to hold them at the work release. So, we restructured so we can do that because a large amount of our female inmates are classified as non-violent and people who, once they are convicted of their crimes, are sentenced out there. But, what we’ve had has just been, really, a high number of female inmates that have had to be housed in a locked facility. Of course, Middleport is the closest available location for that.”
To reiterate the increase in the number of female inmates this year, Grau reported that in 2011, a total of 51 females were housed at the work release center and, in 2012, that number rose to 147.
“There’s been a tremendous explosion in female clientele,” Grau said.
According to Browning, the year-to-date report for bookings within the jail and the work release center indicates that, as of Tuesday, a total of 1,305 inmates have been booked. A total of 18,779 total days of stay have been logged with the two facilities.
Montgomery also commented that the funds that the sheriff’s office is currently expending in out-of-county housing costs could be utilized in other capacities within the department.
“Right now, you have approximately $70,000 in outstanding bills for out-of-county housing,” Montgomery said.“The out-of-county housing, it may be twice this — $150,000 so to speak — that’s not an accurate number. I’m just looking at what is outstanding. I know we’ve paid bills. So, if you reduce out-of-county housing, it frees up $150,000, so-to-speak, to support your department here.”
The increase in out-of-county housing costs can also be attributed to the number of homicide cases that have occurred in the county in 2012, according to the discussion.
“Some of that had to do with … these four homicides that we’ve had. One case had four suspects that were arrested. So, there’s seven total there, and, just for investigative purposes, you don’t want to house those people together, so you try to move them as efficiently as you can,” Browning stated.
Grau also commented on the challenges of housing multiple homicide, and other high-profile suspects within the same facility.
“This year was an anomaly with the homicides and those types of things that have created issues with some of that housing, as well, which would allow us to open up that female side without having to have it broke down where everybody is separated from the homicide [suspects],” Grau said. “Hopefully, we can move forward with that, which will be huge, as well.”
Additionally, recent child sex cases have also added to the cost of out-of-county housing as those defendants being held in those cases had to be moved to other facilities.
“There’s some child sex cases. They didn’t feel safe being housed there, probably rightfully so, and they were moved. The classification of prisoner that’s been housed in that jail this year have been felony three plus,” Grau said.
Browning also stated that in early 2013, he will be examining the staff at the main jail in order to reduce out-of-county housing. It is also his hope the upcoming year will be quieter as far as criminal cases.
“Where we had to realign some staff out of the main jail, I think that probably next year we are going to be able to staff that in a way that we can hold females again in that jail and that’s going to save a lot on this out-of-counting housing,” Browning stated. “When we get the opportunity to sit down to re-staff that in such a way — even if it is just with our part time staff — that’s going to help us.”
According to Casto, income garnered from the Gallia County Work Release Center (WRC) has almost met projections in 2012. Reportedly, $342,192 in income, thus far in 2012, has been received through the WRC. The projected income for the facility in 2012 is $344,900.
“We, actually, have done well as far as bringing in money this year. We’ve almost met our projected income,” she said.
Casto did also report that, as the number of individuals housed in the facility has gone up, so, too, have funds needed to run the facility. A total of $27,477 will be needed to cover salaries at the facility, as well as 5,000 for supplies and services, among other expenses.
According to Sgt. Werry, as of October 31, 350 people have been booked into the work release center.
Werry reported that among the largest savings that can be seen in the facility is the inmates’ medical expenses — expenses that would have otherwise been incurred by the county had those inmates been housed in the regular jail.
Werry reported that a total of 115 doctor visits have been reported by the WRC inmates this year. This equates to a total of $242,500 in medical expenses that were paid by the inmates and not the sheriff’s office in 2012.
“Those are visits by inmates that, if they had been housed in the jail, we feel as if we would have had to absorb those costs,” Browning stated.
The chief deputy also commented that next year’s projects for WRC are more positive as one-time maintenance and other issues that have been ongoing at the facility have been largely corrected this year.
“With all of the trials and tribulations that we’ve had up there at the work release center, I think this coming year, with all those issues taken care of now, if we can just run straight forward, I think we we’ll be right there again and doing what we are supposed to do,” Grau stated. “We have not stopped reaching out to bring other paying customers in at this point. We’ve been sending out, probably, quarterly reminders to other agencies reminding them that we have the facility and to please continue to try to use it. Every time it generates one more, and that’s a plus.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Montgomery reported that the commission would take the request for the approximately $210,000 needed for the sheriff’s budget into consideration.
“So, with all being said, the bottom line is, right now, you’re $209,819.99 in the deficient — basically, $210,000 right now you need to finish out the year,” Montgomery said. “We’ll take this under advisement.”