Undersheriff Paul W. Trudeau asked the Jefferson County Board of Legislators during a budget workshop Tuesday night to reconsider a proposal that would eliminate two vacant deputy positions from his department.
With calls for service, arrests, violent domestic incidents, pistol permit requests, background investigations, felony arrests and drug arrests on the rise, the positions are sorely needed, Mr. Trudeau told legislators.
He said he was willing to settle for just one of the two positions.
Reconsider, take a look at it and, for public safety reasons, maybe I can get one out of the two, he said.
But after trading jabs with legislators, Mr. Trudeau left without a commitment in a year where budget constraints are even tighter than usual.
In constructing the budget for 2014, the county is facing a sales tax drop, a $3 million budget shortfall and a dwindling reserve fund. And it is only $118,000 shy of the states property tax cap.
But some legislators, including Robert J. Thomas, R-Glen Park, and Michael F. Astafan, D-Carthage, supported Mr. Trudeaus request.
I have to agree with the undersheriff. I think the county cant handle more than two major incidences at once. Crime is not going to go away. ... Id be willing to take another look at that. Its money, but money cant stand in the way of public protection, Mr. Thomas said.
The discussion about the budget veered slightly off course at more than one point, straying into some of the oft-visited areas of contention between the board and the Sheriffs Department.
When Legislator Barry M. Ormsby, R-Belleville, chairman of the boards Planning and Development Committee, asked Mr. Trudeau where Sheriff John P. Burns was, things began to get a little tense.
Im not sure what youre asking. What could he offer you that I cant offer you? Mr. Trudeau said. Hes on vacation. I didnt just come into the Sheriffs Department when I was appointed in February.
Mr. Ormsbys question was apparently prompted by an extended discussion about jail overbooking, which arose after the undersheriff asked legislators for more money to improve the controls on the security doors at the jail in the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.
Mr. Ormsby said he would have appreciated Mr. Burnss perspective on the matter from a historical standpoint.
And a question from Mr. Ormsby about sheriffs deputies patrolling Interstate 81 brought a similar response.
You know what, Mr. Ormsby, regardless of what you think about me or the sheriff, if youre in trouble, my guys will be there to help you, Mr. Trudeau said. I have a concern youre taking two guys off the road.
Following the boards discussions with Mr. Trudeau, county Director of Fire and Emergency Management Joseph D. Plummer asked legislators for the ability to hire three additional dispatchers, which he said would cut overtime costs from more than $240,000 to $90,000.
Department of Social Services Commissioner Laura C. Cerow, in one of her last acts before retiring Thursday, also gave a brief presentation to the board.
Before Mr. Trudeau spoke, Jerry O. Eaton, Republican commissioner of the Jefferson County Board of Elections, and Babette M. Hall, Democratic commissioner, asked the board to consider approving pay raises for their positions, where compensation is held in check by the state, preventing longevity pay from being taken into consideration.