EATON — Preble County Commissioner Rodney Creech would like to hire more road employees for the Sheriff’s Department, to fill a need he sees.
However, his two fellow commissioners were leery of the proposal, not wanting to spend the additional money unless absolutely necessary.
Creech gave his presentation during the board’s meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
“We’ve been talking about the budget and I want to bring this up and ask you to be open-minded, because it is something we talk about a lot. I talked to [Preble County Auditor Lavon Wright] about our financial system and we are sitting good as a county,” Creech said.
“Does that give us a right to go out and spend money that we don’t need to? No, but I feel like we are also in the position as commissioners to manage money,” Creech said. “Looking at where we were at in 2008 and 2009, we never want to go back there and it will always be in the back of our heads. In looking at our current situation and looking at what we have coming in next year, even being very conservative, we’re still anticipating revenue.
“Saying that, this is something near and dear to me and I think it is something near and dear to the county. Over the past four to five years, I’ve gone out and road with the Sheriff’s Department a lot. You’re out there and you see a lot of things. Like, they’re on a call and an alarm drops at a house, but they have a car pulled over with drugs in it, they have to leave that car sit, because there is an alarm going off on a house.”
“I’ve talked to the sheriff many times,” Creech said.”I know, going back to 2008 and 2009, there were a lot of cuts made that had to be made. In 2008 and 2009 they cut 15 positions, and since have replaced three. Two of those were detectives and one was dispatch, we’ve never replaced anyone on the roads. Our county wants more police department. All the money that we spend out of General Fund, the majority of that does not go back to our tax payers.”
“I love being conservative and I think we’re doing a great job being conservative, but when do we start managing our budget?” he asked. “We can make decisions where we can loosen our belt up in certain areas and still feel confident.”
He added, he has noticed “upper management” of the Sheriff’s Department working the roads, which is time they cannot be doing work in their actual job description. They are also compiling a significant amount of overtime.
By hiring a new deputy, they could cut the amount of overtime.
Commissioner Denise Robertson added, if they can eliminate the overtime by hiring a new deputy, then they will break even and not have to spend additional money for this expense, but Commissioner Creech did not believe hiring a new deputy would eliminate the overtime issue completely.
Robertson also noted, she has not heard a desire for more law enforcement from the constituents of the county, and added, the Sheriff’s Department is adding four deputies to Twin Valley Community Local School District, Preble Shawnee Local School District, and National Trail Local School District. Those deputies will be patrolling their respective communities during the summertime.
Creech asked his fellow commissioners to talk to their constituents and see if the desire is there. In the meantime, he asked them to think about his proposal. He will be bringing the topic up again in a few weeks’ time.
In other business, Job and Family Services Director Becky Sorrell presented her monthly report, including an update on Children Services placement costs.
“We had fewer referrals in July. We expect, now that school is back in, that we will get more referrals for the children. You can also see that we have reduced the number of open cases. We’ve changed our practices a little bit and you’ll see in next months report that we will increase the number of kids in protective supervision and reduce the number of kids in temporary custody, which is a great thing and something we’ve been looking forward to doing,” Sorrell said.
“That will help with a number of different areas as far as children services goes. It will allow parents to provide for their children. You can also see that we have increased our kinship placements, which we were already working on that. All along you can see there is a gradual increase in the activity. That is a positive thing.
“Our costs are still $113,000 for July and we are working on reducing those by trying to set kids down to kinship homes and some plans with those kids in residential and group homes. We still had 16 in July and you can see that was our highest cost.”
Commissioner Robertson pointed out, there might be a typo in June Network Foster care costs, which says the cost was $1,000, which is lower than other months by a significant amount. In May the cost was $50,000 and in July the cost was $49,000. Sorrell will be updating the report once she figures out the discrepancy. This will also affect the total amount.
Commissioner Robertson brought up something her constituents had been requesting — evening meetings. Many members of the public cannot take off work to attend the commissioners’ meeting, as it is always on Monday and Wednesday morning. She argued, they should have one evening meeting a month, so everyone has an opportunity to speak on the record to the commissioners.
Commissioner Creech said, he would be willing to try it for two meetings, but Robertson did not believe that would be enough time to test it out fairly. Creech countered, he does not believe many people will show up and evenings are his only time he gets to spend with his family.
Commissioner Chris Day also did not believe many people would show, unless they had a big topic on the agenda. Robertson countered, they should still have the opportunity.
She will reach back out to her constituents and let them know, if they want evening meetings, they should call or attend a future meeting, so the other commissioners can see the desire as much as she does.
The Preble County Board of Commissioners meets ever Monday and Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the Commission Chambers in the Preble County Courthouse.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH