EATON — The Preble County Sheriff’s Department will be adding two new positions to its roster. On Monday, July 22, the Preble County Board of Commissioners finally approved Sheriff Mike Simpson’s request for an additional road deputy and corrections officer in a unanimous vote.
Commissioner Rodney Creech had brought up the topic in the past, but it had failed 2-1, with only Creech in support of the proposal. He requested a vote on the matter on Monday, July 15, but Commissioner Denise Robertson requested a meeting with the sheriff to get her questions answered.
Sheriff Simpson attended the meeting with the Board of Commissioners on Monday, July 22. He began by updating the board on the dispatch consolidation with the City of Eaton, as requested by Commissioner Chris Day.
Simpson shared, they have had the merger running for seven weeks now and “all seems to be going well.”
Capital projects have been completed and paid for. Currently, the department is staffed with nine full-time and three part-time dispatchers. They are in the process of filling an open position, due to a probationary release. Once that is filled, there will be 10 full-time dispatchers.
At this time, Sheriff Simpson does not expect any additional costs for the dispatch consolidation.
Preble County Sheriff’s Office and Eaton Police Division are both fully trained and using the new records management system. The two agencies have fully employed the computers in the cruisers, to reduce travel time and make it easier for officers to file reports on the scene. All full-time road deputies, the Lakengren unit, and the sheriff’s car (when outfitted) will have computers in the car. The School Resource Officers (SRO) do not have access to this equipment, but Sheriff Simpson is looking into grant opportunities to change that.
Simpson added, they do have a “punch list” with Zuercher Technologies and a few final items to complete before they make final payment.
He also updated the board on SROs employed through the Preble County Sheriff’s Department. They have deputies assigned to National Trail, Twin Valley South, and two deputies in Preble Shawnee School District. All salaries and benefits are covered by the respective school districts. Preble County does provide the car, gasoline, maintenance, and uniform needs. No new cars were obtained for the SROs.
He reiterated his request: to hire an additional Sheriff’s Deputy to assign to road patrol and an additional corrections officer to assign to the jail. Both divisions are at limited staffing. He explained, the PCSO has nine deputies assigned to patrol with two on the roads at any given time. There are 22 people assigned to three shifts at the jail; six on midnights, nine on days, and seven on evenings.
According to Simpson, both division continue to experience high overtime costs.
Simpson spoke to the commissioners about the benefits off adding these two additional positions and the intentions behind the request.
“What are our benefits? One of our first objectives is to try to lower our cost on overtime on a monthly basis due to another person being available. That is our number one goal,” Simpson said. “Another positive is an additional unit is available to handle calls for service. It will allow us to create a third central district, we’re going to talk about this when we have three units working. This will reduce the number of miles each deputy is responsible for.”
Simpson did note, the additional positions will not reduce all overtime costs.
Commissioner Robertson thanked Sheriff Simpson for bringing the requested information and explained, she believes it is the commissioners duty to make sure their decisions are fiscally responsible.
Sheriff Simpson did address one question Commissioner Robertson emailed him the Saturday before the meeting.
The question read, “What is overtime used for? If it is used to cover unfilled shifts, okay, but if it is used for paperwork or things that didn’t get done in a shift, is that acceptable? I believe the money we spent to equip each car with computers was to eliminate having to come back to the office to do paperwork. I just hope no one in the department is taking advantage of the tax payers by using overtime to pad their pay. I am sure you wouldn’t allow that.”
Simpson replied, “Under no circumstances would we ever allow anyone to pad their paychecks. This comment, or reference, in my opinion, is unprofessional and I think it is a slap in the face to my staff and myself.”
“Do you know where this comes from?” Robertson asked. “It was put in the email, because we stopped by the Sheriff’s Office for a visit and Commissioner Creech asked one of the deputies, ‘What are you doing here?’ and the deputy said, ‘Getting some overtime, doing some paperwork.’”
She added, she just wanted to be sure the department scrutinizes overtime and wouldn’t allow employees to “pad their pay.”
Following the meeting with the sheriff, Commissioner Creech took the matter to official vote. He made a motion to add an additional sheriff’s deputy and corrections officer.
Commissioner Day said there are several things he wants to discuss in the budget, including “large ticket items,” because he wants to be sure this decision is sustainable. He said he is not opposed to the decision, but wanted more information before “pulling the trigger.”
Creech responded, he has no more questions and they’ve had months to get all their questions answered.
Before voting, Day did want to be clear this would be an annual increase for Preble County to increase services and protection. While they are decreasing overtime, they will not be saving money — it will still be an increase.
These new positions will come at a cost of approximately $200,000. This cost includes salaries, benefits, and a patrol car. This is not the annual cost, as the deputy’s car is included and is a one time cost.
Commissioner Creech called for the vote and all three commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the two new positions.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH