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Sheriff's Office hopes to hire four deputies under federal grant

By Melissa Crowe
March 19, 2012 at 4:02 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2012 at 10:19 p.m.

Chief Deputy Terry Simons

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The Victoria County Sheriff's Office could receive federal funding that would cover the costs of hiring four patrol officers for four years.

County commissioners unanimously approved Monday the sheriff's office grant application to the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. About $111 million is available through the program.

Chief Deputy Terry Simons called the patrol unit understaffed.

The national standard is to have two deputies per 1,000 residents, he said. The sheriff's office has 30 deputies to Victoria County's population, about 90,000.

He estimated that a new hire costs the county $100,000, which includes salary, vehicle, uniforms and training.

"It's a great opportunity to increase staffing levels," Simons said, adding that the county does not have to invest in the large expense of hiring new deputies.

Simons said the battle against crime is eternal. Last year, the department received 60,000 calls.

"You can't finally win the battle," he said. "You have to stay prepared, protect people and not lose that vigilance."

The justice department previously denied the county the grant, but encouraged Victoria County to re-apply. The deadline is Thursday.

Joyce Dean, director of administrative services for Victoria County, said, because of that invitation, she feels the county will be approved.

According to a memo she submitted to the court, the county would be responsible for matching 25 percent of the grant the first three years. The county would have 100 percent commitment during the fourth year.

County Judge Don Pozzi pointed out that by approving the application, commissioners had not accepted it.

"Basically, if this funding is approved, for the first three years, we would have four officers and the cost to the county would for be one of those four," Pozzi said. "At the end of year three, the county would pick up the entirety of that period on."

If four deputies were hired, counting a 3 percent cost of living increase and benefits, in high estimates, the first year would cost the county $58,469; the second year, $60,177; the third year, $61,819; and the final year $240.556. Health insurance was not included in the estimate, so there would be additional costs, Dean said.

Over the four-year-grant period, the county would match $42,963 to $500,000 from the federal government.

"We're going to get a deal for four years, only paying 25 percent," Commissioner Clint Ives said.

Simons said the department had not increased its numbers in at least four years.

"The grant is very restrictive," Dean said. "This is going to be a process for us."

The new hires must be military veterans, who served on active duty for at least 180 days since Sept. 11, 2001.

Dean said there was not a penalty if all four new positions were not filled. The county would still be responsible for 25 percent of the new hires.

Pozzi said four new officers does not equate to purchasing four new vehicles.

"Don't get in your mind that because we have additional patrol officers, that calculates to extra vehicles more than what we have been purchasing," Pozzi said.

Janak asked if the new hires would be mandated to stay on as employees after the fourth year.

Dean said when the grant expires, it becomes a budgetary decision.

"When you look at how Victoria County is growing and how strapped the S.O. truthfully is on patrol, we could utilize this grant for four employees and if ... times really got hard, then possibly we could say when the grant goes away, possibly the four employees would go away," Janak said.

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