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Sheriff pinches pennies through reorganization

Jun 17, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

"Restructuring" is the theme at the Fremont County Sheriff's Office in its proposed fiscal year 2014 administration and detention center budgets. Sheriff Skip Hornecker presented requests for both sectors of his office at a June hearing June 3 with commissioners.

Staffing changes largely brought the request for the office's administration budget down $36,000 from the year before to $3.6 million. Hornecker asked for $88,000 more for the county lockup. Major personnel costs, such as salary and health insurance cost increases, are still up in the air.

The administration budget covers the enforcement side of Hornecker's office.

Personnel expenses are about $59,000 lower in the proposed budget than in the 2013 fiscal year.

Rather than replace a captain who retired, Hornecker wants to add a position that only would handle non-emergency calls such as conducting vehicle identification number checks and serving court documents. The new position would free up regular deputies to respond to more serious work.

"Their primary job function will be to take those three high frequency, low risk calls off our enforcement personnel," he said.

Hornecker would like salary increases for his staff but is waiting for a decision from the commissioners before including them, he said in his proposal.

The request does include a $2,500 raise for the sheriff in accordance with a 2010 commission resolution that scheduled raises for elected officials every four years.

Those figures could change, however, pending the commission's decisions about staff raises. The county board also has yet to decide how to pay for a 15 percent increase in the cost of health insurance. Answering that question could involve departments paying more.

County jail

Mitigating liability drove the requested increase for the detention center, Hornecker said. He cited a recent lawsuit against his agency by a prisoner as a reason to improve medical services at the facility.

"We are currently facing a claim that's based around a medical issue," he said.

He would like to fill a nursing position that has been vacant. Hornecker said the former employee handled mental health issues, but he could not fill the position with a similarly qualified person at the same salary.

So, he left the job unfilled and used the funds to contract for mental health services.

The upcoming year's budget would continue to contract for $80,000 of those services but also keep open the vacant position, Hornecker said. He would seek a nurse without the extra background in psychological issues.

"You're actually adding another personnel," Stephanie Kessler said.

The sheriff said having only two medical personnel working at the detention center "is lessening the time they're having to keep their charts up."

The Commission will continue discussions through June and propose a budget on June 30. The county board plans to hold a public hearing on the budget July 8 and will finalize the financial plan July 9.