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Mercer County Fiscal Court Holds First Meeting Of 2019

Budgets Set For Clerk’s And Sheriff’s Offices

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

The Mercer County Fiscal Court met for the first time in 2019. The magistrates took care of work that needs to be done at the beginning of the new year, approving the 2019 budgets for the county clerk’s and sheriff’s offices.

For 2019, County Clerk Chris Horn is projecting $5.2 million in receipts and $5.1 in disbursements with a balance of $58,282. The estimates are based on last year’s numbers, Horn said.

Using those projections, the fiscal court set a maximum salary cap of $319,000 for deputies with the sheriff’s office. They also approved county employees’ salaries for 2019.

Magistrates also approved the $1.1 million budget for the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, who are projecting a balance of $6,755 in 2019.

“Commissions were up, a lot,” said Beverly Stratton. Stratton said they were up $31,800, while fees on taxes were up $22,000. All together, there are $35,000 in excess fees collected in 2018.

However, the sheriff’s office has plans for those funds. They want to update the computers used in the office and the deputies’ cruisers. Dep. Wes Gaddis called the computers they’re currently using “severely antiquated.”

“It’s an officer safety issue at this point,” Gaddis said.

The sheriff’s office is proposing to buy 10 Microsoft Surface Pro notebooks to replace all the computers, which can be used in the office or in patrol cars.

They also want to purchase three up-to-date radar guns. While the fiscal court was open to using the excess fees to purchase the equipment, they tabled the issue until they had consulted with the Department  of Local Government.

The sheriff’s office is purchasing a 2019 Dodge pickup, which will cost $38,000 fully equipped. That expense was already included in the current county budget.

As always, a large part of the court’s business concerned the Boyle County Detention Center. The magistrates enthusiastically approved making the final $129,070.82 payment for  debt service on BCDC.

The magistrates also agreed to pay Boyle County Fiscal Court $3,000 in administrative fees for January, as well as $35,100 for jail operations in January. That is based on Mercer paying 27-percent of jail expenses, as the two counties agreed last year.

The court also approved transferring $210,000 from payroll and net profit to the jail fund to cover expenses. They tabled amending the employee grievance section in the jail policy and procedure manual and approved a two-year extension of the agreement with Shepherd’s House to operate the day treatment drug problem.

“They are doing good things over there,” said Judge-Executive Milward Dedman. Currently, clients need to be in jail to go to Shepherd’s House. Dedman said Shepherd’s House is looking at opening spots to the public.

After a lively debate, the magistrates also moved to give BCDC employees a 50-cent across the board raise. The raise would increase starting pay at the jail from $11.50 to $12 an hour. This is in addition to a 2.5-percent cost of living allowance that went into effect on Jan. 1.

Treasurer Sandy Sanders called the raise a “compromise.” It’s half what was asked at the December meeting of the joint jail committee meeting.

BCDC Capt. Chad Holderman said it would cost $30,282 for the raise until the end of the fiscal year. Holderman said the jail is $49,000 under budget because they are understaffed.

“We’re not asking for more money,” he said. “The money is in the line item.”

Holderman said he didn’t have the turnover rate, but said it was high.

“A lot of people who come to us have never set foot in a jail before,” he said. “They’ve watched TV and they think they know what goes on in a jail. But you can’t smell through a TV.”

Magistrate Tim Darland praised the jail staff, but noted that Mercer’s road department employees hadn’t had a raise recently either.

“If you’re going to do raises, you need to address every point in the county,” said Darland. “If we’re going to address one, we’ve got to address them all.”

Darland also wondered if the raise was a long term solution to BCDC’s problem retaining and attracting employees.

“If your house is on fire, you call in a fire truck,” said Holderman, quoting a recent op-ed published in  the Danville Advocate-Messenger. “You don’t hold back in case a neighbor has a cat up in a tree.”

Darland moved to give the raise and Magistrate Wayne Jackson seconded. The raise passed unanimously.

The next meeting of the Mercer County Fiscal Court will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 10 a.m. at the Mercer County Fiscal Courthouse (207 West Lexington Street).

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