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deputy position is reconsidered

By Staff | Aug 5, 2009

After hearing Tuesday that the county did not receive a grant that would have helped restore a deputy position, the Emmet County Board of Supervisors will reconsider amending the county budget to refill the position.

How that position will be filled remains in question. Whether it’s full-time or several part-time officers, the sheriff’s budget will need to be amended to cover the costs.

Sheriff Mike Martens told the board about the county not receiving the grant Tuesday, saying, “We just weren’t one of the chosen few.”

Martens noted five awards throughout Iowa, some over $1 million, all in metro areas except for Centerville. Martens said Emmet County could still get funding if additional money is approved in the future by Congress. Nationwide, there was $8.3 billion in grant applications for $1 billion in funding.

“Right now I’m afraid we’re just out of luck,” Martens said. “When it comes through, it’s a godsend. When it doesn’t we just have to try again.”

With former sheriff Larry Lamack retiring in March, Martens said the department compiled $10,000 in overtime from April through June. He expects overtime for the year to total $40,000 – that’s with an overtime budget of $11,000 for the entire year.

“I’ve got guys that are burned out,” Martens said. “They’re tired. And they need more time off.”

Martens said he needed to find a way to fill 77 vacation days before the end of the year. When Randy Beaver, board chair, asked Martens about the impact of a possible retirement in the department, Martens said that could create a vacuum. “I’ve had a lot of interest from certified officers already” in a deputy’s position, Martens said.

Martens noted a marked increase in assaults, domestic violence, traffic accidents, thefts, sexual assaults and drunk driving. Drunk driving, formerly something that happened at night, is becoming a daytime problem, he said.

Martens observed a decrease in drug arrests. However, he attributed that to not enough manpower to cover the county rather than a reduction in illegal drug activity. “We just haven’t got the resources to work it like we should be,” Martens said. “I’d like to have my position refilled.”

Supervisor Alan Madden said the request should be put on next week’s agenda. “We’re going to have to amend the budget if we’re going to do this,” Madden said.

Martens lauded his deputies for performing above and beyond with the department one man down from the previous strength. “I think things are going great with my people,” he said. “People are stepping up and taking responsibility and they’re doing well. It has been a very busy seven months for me.”

Supervisor Jim Jenson said he wanted the full board to be present before making a decision – Supervisor Ron Smith was not at Tuesday’s meeting. Jenson also asked whether adequate part-time qualified people would be available.

“I think that’s certainly a possibility,” Martens said. “But to choreograph the future of the organization you need to have the resources.”

“I still have a problem with a full-time person,” Jenson said.

Martens noted his overtime budget of $11,000 a year would likely be exceeded four-fold under current staffing. “I can’t plan if I don’t know that I have a steady person,” he said. He said having a full-time person would also help in training new personnel and in counting on having the person available.

Martens said he would seek out the availability of qualified part-time people to fill the position by the next meeting.