The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office is asking the County Commission to allocate funds in the 2016 budget for nine new jail officers — as a start on a total of 34 additional positions over the next four years.
The board heard from the sheriff’s office and the Floyd County Health Department Tuesday, in the first round of budget talks. County Manager Jamie McCord expects to have a draft budget proposal available for the commission before the end of the month.
“We are in dire need of staff, and the commission, they have known about it for years,” said Chief Deputy Tom Caldwell. “We want to make sure that they realize it is still our top priority.”
During the meeting, McCord said he thinks filling nine new positions next year could be difficult. He estimated the four-year plan would cost about $1.2 million.
Caldwell also asked for money to replace the generator at the jail. It has been there for close to 20 years and it recently quit working, he said.
A new generator would cost between $130,000 and $197,000, McCord said. He told the board the county facilities management crew sent to repair it determined it was functioning appropriately but a company brought in by the sheriff’s office said it needs to be replaced.
“So we just need to find out the actual facts between what they have done and what we did and put the two together and try to come up with a solution,” McCord said.
Commissioners approved pay raises for law enforcement in October after Sheriff Tim Burkhalter said he planned a lawsuit over staffing, salary and equipment issues at the jail.
Following the meeting Caldwell and McCord expanded on their positions in separate interviews.
McCord said they worked out a solution to the raise issue and he hopes they’ll be able to talk things through on the staffing and equipment issues.
“There’s just no way we can provide everything they asked for,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to work together.”
He pointed out that other departments have been reducing their staff in recent years. He doesn’t think adding nine jail officers in the first two years and eight in the last two is plausible.
Caldwell said their main goal is to address staffing and equipment issues in the new budget.
“We don’t want to do that through litigation obviously, but at some point in time, we’ve got to take care of not just the inmates, but the staff at the jail. We have to have more staff, that’s the bottom line.”
Health department wants boost
The commissioners also met with Dr. Wade Sellers, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Public Health District.
Sellers said the Health Department board is asking the county to increase their budget to $400,000 in fiscal year 2016 from $300,000.
He said he wants to be able to hire more staff. He pointed out that Floyd County ranks 101 in health outcomes out of the 159 counties in Georgia, according to a county health ranking report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
If the county approves the $100,000 increase, Sellers said the Health Department would only have to withdraw $290,000 out of its reserve fund of approximately $1.4 million. Commissioners had some discussion about the department’s reserves but made no decision.
The County Commission also had its bi-monthly meeting Tuesday. The new animal shelter contract that was expected to be voted on was pushed back until the Nov. 24 meeting.
The design team for the animal shelter will present preliminary designs at a public meeting Thursday, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., in the Emergency Operations Center, 409 E. 12th St.
The board also went into closed session to discuss pending litigation.
Commissioner Rhonda Wallace also announced the county would hold a breakfast in The Forum ballroom today for county employees who are veterans.