Commission's evening meeting has full audience
Pocahontas County Commissioners enjoyed a full house at their first evening meeting, with about a dozen citizens attending. Not all the audience addressed the commission; in fact, most observed the commission's actions which were mostly budgetary.
Sheriff David Jonese delayed hiring a ninth deputy, but asked for a budget transfer from capital outlay to overtime. Jonese said he'd purchased "smarter" vehicles in order to save a fairly substantial amount of money. He asked to transfer $5,000 of that to cover his overtime budget, now down to $8.34.
The sheriff said he had no other line items from which to borrow for the transfer. While he's tried to limit overtime, Jonese said there are circumstances over which he has no control.
"The goal is not to expand our budget," Jonese said. "[I want] to keep it where it is and use other sources for funding so we don't take any more money from the county."
Commission president David Fleming said he was leery of moving money from capital outlay. The commission's administrative assistant, Sue Helton, said that money is typically set aside for specific purchases such as vehicles, furnishings and computer equipment.
Commissioner Jamie Walker pointed out that the sheriff's department has spent $30,000 for overtime so far this fiscal year.
"I don't see how $5,000 is going to get us through the next six months," Walker said.
Jonese said later that he had saved more than $14,000 on vehicles and wanted to distribute that money into several line items. But with no budget transfer forthcoming from the commission, he said he will not approve overtime for any of his officers now.
Fortunately, he said, "nothing major is going on."
Most of the law enforcement overtime budget is spent during the summer and fall months when the county hosts festivals such as Pioneer Days.
Although his overtime budget is practically gone with about five-and-a-half months left in the fiscal year, the sheriff said his officers are going to continue to do their jobs "because that's what they do."
"They're dedicated," he said. "It's about safety."
Jonese had backup for his second request.
Pocahontas County Superintendent of Schools C. C. Lester helped Jonese promote the idea of having a Prevention Resource Officer in schools here.
Lester said that he had three PROs in Nicholas County. Those officers were all very involved with students, he said.
"It's amazing the bond they made with the students," Lester said. "Kids actually come to talk to the officer."
Now a sitting Nicholas County magistrate, Wayne Plummer said he spent part of his career in law enforcement as a PRO.
"It was the best two years I had," Plummer said. "We did a lot of character classes; we didn't just stand around. We went into the classrooms."
Plummer said once the program got started, parents relied on it more and more.
"I can't speak highly enough about the program or what it does," he continued. "I was able to do some good there."
Grants pay for 75 percent of the PRO's salary, Jonese said.
Lester said the Nicholas County Board of Education helped with the matching funds for PROs there.
"I think it's a good program," Fleming said. "I don't want the fear of cost in subsequent years to stop us [from doing it]."
Lester was not on the agenda, so the commission could take no action on the request.
The PRO will be on the commission's February 1 agenda.
In other business, commissioners:
ﾕapproved hiring a full-time deputy in the circuit clerk's office to replace Connie Carr, who was elected to the office last November.
ﾕapproved hiring a full-time deputy county clerk.
ﾕwent into executive session with the sheriff on a criminal investigation matter.
ﾕwent into an executive session with the circuit clerk on a personnel issue.
Commissioner Martin Saffer was not present for the evening meeting.
The commission meets again in regular session on its daytime schedule February 1.