Commissioners OK $700k to keep county jail from chaos
By Lora-Marie Bernard
THE OVERTIME budget for the county jail had to be bailed out this week – six months before its replacement is due.
Sheriff Henry Trochesset told the county commissioners on Tuesday that his office expects to need $726,000 to pay for jail guards’ overtime for the rest of the fiscal year.
He said the jail’s overtime budget had only $174,000 in it, having spent $624,000 of its $815,044 allocation in the first five months of the fiscal year.
And precinct-three commissioner Stephen Holmes said the sheriff’s department was in danger of not being able to pay overtime to its jail deputies after this month.
To overcome the deficit, Trochesset, left, called on the commissioners to move general-fund money into the overtime budget in order to meet new projections between now and September 30.
“This is the one part of the office that is as micro-managed to death”, he said.
The request had been part of the meeting’s automatic-approval consent agenda until precinct-four commissioner Ken Clark pulled it out for individual consideration, saying he thought the commissioners’ court had approved a budget to meet the sheriff’s expectations.
“This is a lot of money”, he said in response to Trochesset’s amendment request.
The sheriff said the county jail’s population had increased in significant numbers, which had caught him by surprise. At one point, he said, the population had reached a figure two inmates short of maximum capacity.
“It’s not even our busiest season”, he said.
The commissioners heard that, at present, the sheriff’s office has six staff openings. But Trochesset said that, even if the six positions were filled, he’d still have issues finding enough deputies to guard the jail population to state standards.
Jail deputies have several duties that take them away from their core function of guarding inmates. Training, inmate transfer, military assignments and emergency work are among other duties that cause administrators to shuffle floor-deputy duties, leading to the need for overtime pay.
He said: “I can have one guy who watches 48 inmates but, if I have four inmates at the hospital, I could end up with one [deputy] for each of those four. That’s what we are dealing with.”
Holmes wanted to know if there would be a salary lapse in the county’s fiscal budget as a result of a transfer into the overtime fund.
Trochesset replied that he could find that out because he had made his initial budget request last year following guidelines the commissioners had given him.
The commissioners approved the transfer unanimously.