CCSD seeks budget increase

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Carter County Sheriff's Department's Chief Deputy James Parrish, on three-day leave from military duty in Virginia, Monday evening asked the county budget committee for an increase of $98,500 for the sheriff's department in the new fiscal year.
   Parrish told members of the committee meeting at the County Courthouse that $56,000 of that request was to pay the salaries of three state-mandated female jailers hired several months ago.
   Other major increases include $15,000 extra for medical and dental, $10,000 for food to feed the inmates, and an increase of $19,000 to pay for an extra police cruiser. Parrish also requested a $2,000 increase in funding for training, $1,500 in transportation for inmates who must be extradited, and a $1,000 increase for tires.
   When asked about step raises for sheriff's department workers, he said the nearly $10,000 it would take to fund those increases probably would come from the salary he is not drawing while on active duty with the Army Reserve, and also from the salary of Investigator Chris Pierce, who is on active duty with the 776th National Guard unit.
   "We've got room to work as far as step raises. We don't have to ask for any additional money. I can't tell you exactly what the step raises are because I haven't had enough time to work them, but the last I looked, it was around $9,700. But my salary -- what I am not drawing -- will take care of that. There will actually be some extra monies in there if they keep me and Investigator Pierce an entire year," he said.
   "The only thing that we're asking any extra money for that doesn't relate to the jail is $19,000 for an extra cruiser," he said.
   Budget Committee member John Lewis said, "I notice the medical and dental, that's about as much as the food is. Who gets all that? Do the prisoners over there get free dental work?"
   Parrish said that while the department does not take care of inmates' pre-existing conditions, "we're responsible for taking care of anything that happens to them while they are in jail."
   "What can go wrong with a man's teeth while they're in jail?" Lewis asked.
   "I don't know what can go wrong, but if there's a problem with that inmate and they're in pain, we've got to take care of them," Parrish said.
   Sheriff John Henson told Lewis, "If he's got a toothache, you've got to take care of him."
   Finance Director Jason Cody told committee members that most of the dental work is related to extractions, which typically cost around $60 to $80 per tooth.
   "Looks to me like any time your medical and dental costs about the same amount of money as your food does, there's something wrong," Lewis said.
   "We're actually below the regional average by quite a bit," Parrish told him. "If you would care to check into the other local counties, we were lower per capita as far as inmate population."
   The budget request for vehicles totals $60,000, which Parrish said would be for three vehicles that would be equipped out of the $25,000 equipment fund.
   Committee member Tom "Yogi" Bowers said he noticed that the department has 15 vehicles with more than 150,000 miles on them. "If there was an accident due to the high mileage, would that place the county in liability?'
   Parrish said that it would, and also told the group, "100,000 miles on a cruiser is a little rougher than 100,000 on a personal vehicle."
   Finance Director Cody said that while some of the cars do have high mileage, they have been well maintained and some even have been overhauled.
   "If we could get into a leasing program and get eight vehicles or seven vehicles, or whatever we can get, we'll be somewhere around where we need to be as far as keeping our primary road cars under 120,000 to 140,000 miles. We'll get back to where we're safe again, but we've got to have that money in order to get there," Parrish told them.
   A leased patrol car comes already striped and equipped with light bar, cage, and radio, and costs about $24,000, he said. "The lease payment, right now with the interest rates we have, is somewhere around $8,000, or three annual payments with a $1 buyout at the end. Where you gain is in your maintenance."
   One transmission can add up to $1,600 to $1,800 in repairs. By leasing, the county is taking a high-mileage car off the road [and] "we're going to have a car that's under warranty for the next 36,000 miles. So that saves us on the maintenance line proportionate to the amount that we're paying in interest," he said.
   Sheriff Henson said his department really is not asking for anything extra. The $56,000 it costs to hire the new jailers "came out of our vehicle money. That's why we didn't buy any cars this year. Last year, we didn't get any cars either," he said. "We've not bought any vehicles because they took the money to hire the females with. Now it's going to have to be added into the budget."
   Sheriff Henson said that last year around this time, the jail was averaging 160 to 170 inmates. On Monday, the count was 202. Because of the rising number of inmates, medical and dental as well as food costs have gone up.
   "By law, we're required to feed and give these people medical attention. The only thing we asked for is what we really have to have. I think it's a good budget. I don't know what they'll do with it, but I don't see how I can go any lower," Henson said.