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Putnam sheriff wants money for more employees, new vehicles

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County Sheriff Steve Deweese told county commissioners Tuesday that he needs around $264,000 more than last year in order to hire new deputies and buy vehicles, among other things.

Steve Deweese, who took office in January, told commissioners he plans to hire two deputies in order to have enough staff.

"Last month alone [Putnam deputies] responded to 1,347 calls," Deweese said while presenting his requested budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins July 1. "The calls aren't stopping."

The sheriff also wants six 2014 Ford Police Interceptor Sedans, at a total cost of $148,000, to replace vehicles with more than 100,000 miles.

As the county's drug task force expands, Deweese said, "We've outgrown our current space." He said the new facility he has in mind would offer a private rear entrance, useful for confidential informants, and a garage to secure seized vehicles.

After other county department heads presented their budget requests, Commissioner Andy Skidmore said he noticed a trend.

"It seemed all the increases were generated around the drug problem we're facing," Skidmore said.

Circuit Clerk Ronnie Matthews hopes to hire an additional full-time employee and move a part-time employee to full time, among other expenses caused by an overwhelming workload. Jamey Hunt, director of the county's day-report program, which attempts to rehabilitate offenders, is also suffering from a rise in the number of felony criminal cases.

Mark Sorsaia, the county's prosecuting attorney, told commissioners the volume of felony cases in the county is "alarming."

"That's impacting postage, paper, work hours," Sorsaia said. "It's really putting a strain on the prosecutor's office, sheriffs department and the circuit clerk."

Last year, commissioners approved an $18.39 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which included raising the county's levy rate. Commissioners also reduced the usual 2.5 percent annual raises county employees of elected officials were used to receiving to a 1.25 percent increase.

"I'd encourage you all to return to giving 2.5 percent to employees," Putnam Clerk Brian Wood said. "The cost of living is not getting any cheaper."

At the time, the strict budget was blamed on the high cost of the regional jail bill, which is not expected to get any better.

However, commissioners said Tuesday they thought more money might be available for 2013-14 after decreasing the size of the county's tax-increment financing (TIF) district. Last year, a portion of the pool of money, which helps pay for county infrastructure projects, was moved into the county's general budget after it was downsized.

Also at the meeting, commissioners decided to move forward with creating another tax increment-financing district at the Putnam Business Park in Fraziers Bottom.

As with other TIF properties, new property taxes generated within the park and several surrounding properties would help fund utility extensions at the park if the plan is approved by the state Development Office.

The amount won't exceed $3 million, according to John Stump, an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson, who is handling the application.

A public hearing on the project will be held at 10 a.m. on March 26 at the old courthouse in Winfield.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723. 

 


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