06/18/08 — Horse-trading gets sheriff four deputies

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Horse-trading gets sheriff four deputies

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 18, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County Manger Lee Smith and Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Ray Smith spent more than 10 minutes huddled with county commissioners Tuesday morning in what appeared to be a "horse-trading" session during the commissioners' meeting.

Minutes later, the board adopted a new $162 million county budget that includes four new patrol deputies for the Sheriff's Office.

Commissioners had motioned for the two men to approach their dais during a break in the meeting. They spoke for several minutes among themselves in voices that could not be discerned by the audience and occasionally used their fingers to apparently indicate the number of deputies they were considering.

When the huddle broke, the board continued with its budget discussions before unanimously adopting he spending plan.

Asked after the meeting if the public would have been better served with a more open forum Lee Smith replied, "Not necessarily. I was getting called up during the break -- I don't know that they (public) would have, really. I think they (commissioners) were trying to decide how is this going to affect the budget, what is it going to mean next year, what is it going to cost."

He added, "I think that sometimes when they have those discussions among themselves they feel a little more free to talk.

"I think the important thing is that commissioners listened to what the sheriff said. They listened to his statistics. A couple (of commissioners) called and said they didn't realize the (crime) figures were this high. I was pleased to see that they were willing to negotiate this kind of thing."

The budget already included $47,000 to pick up the cost of a gang officer for the Sheriff's Office. That position is currently funded through a grant that will expire at the first of October.

Lee Smith estimates that it will cost the county about $35,000 for each of the four new deputies -- about $140,000 total. He said the amount could vary depending on how long it takes for Sheriff Carey Winders to hire the deputies.

He said the budget has some contingency funds built into it help with such items.

"We close the budget out June 30, but you do not know until about the middle of August how you ended the year because the bills still come in," Lee Smith said. "I am hoping we will end up a little bit to the positive this year."

The cost does not include any new vehicles. Lee Smith said Winders said he would be able to get by with the vehicles the Sheriff's Office already has on hand.

Winders, who originally had sought eight new deputies, did not attend the session. He broke his foot over the weekend. In a telephone interview he called the board's action "very significant."

"Their help is very much appreciated," he said. "It will help us out tremendously."

During his comments last week, Winders made use of a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate how the numbers of calls had increased. He told commissioners the number would continue to climb because of the county's growing population.

Ray Smith told commissioners during their Tuesday morning budget hearing that he was speaking on behalf of the sheriff. He said he was also speaking on behalf of county residents who had been victims of a crime and who had been forced to wait on a deputy to respond because of the volume of calls. He said he was also speaking for investigators who had to explain to those citizens why it took so long to respond.

He said the county already had logged 14,000 calls in just the first six months of this year.

Lee Smith said commissioners started calling him last Friday about the sheriff's request.

"He (Winders) was right," Smith said. "There are more people, more crime and they are getting increased calls. Wayne County is becoming urbanized. I think without a doubt that the sheriff needs more deputies.

"The board really heard what he said, and several called and said, 'What do you think we can we do?' My recommendation today was to do at least two. As late as this morning board members came in and said they really would like to include the gang officer, and asked if we could do two more."