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Sheriff's budget has upgrades to 911, jail health care, personnel

The Washington County Sheriff's Office is proposing to add one deputy, jail nurses, a crime van and upgrades to the 911 system.

The new initiatives are part of the proposed 2014 budget, which county officials have been reviewing before they're set to vote on the preliminary tax levy in September.

Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton said 35 percent of the $28 million sheriff's office budget goes to the jail, while about 75 percent is personnel expenses.

Hutton said fulfilling permanent need for nurses at the county jail has been a challenge, with half time or quarter time hires as needed, so the proposed budget includes a $128,400 increase for new correctional health nurse positions.

The demand for health care professionals at the jail is rising, he added, and the department is in need of a long-term solution.

"It's a significant thing within the sheriff's office," Hutton said. "We were spending that anyway."

Additionally, the new budget would allow him to add one full-time deputy to make up for cuts the department saw at the beginning of the recession in 2008.

"We are in need of this position to help fill a hole that we lost," Hutton told county commissioners at an Aug. 20 workshop.

The 2014 proposed budget also reflects a $70,500 increase to pay for medical examiner fees, as well as $60,000 for fleet capital expenditures.

The department also needs $49,000 for its own crime scene processing vehicle that would handle cases not considered major or in need of the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension equipment.

"It's going to be something out there to collect evidence that we need," Hutton said, noting the van would help with burglaries, home invasions and cases that don't receive substantial forensic and investigative attention.

New upgrades to the 911 system are estimated to cost $523,400 in 2014, but the sheriff's office has been building a fund balance to pay for those anticipated expenses.

The proposed budget reflects use of $217,500 out of the fund balance for the 911 system.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office gets the majority of its revenues from the tax levy at 79 percent or $22 million.

Last week, commissioners also reviewed presentations by County Attorney Pete Orput, who did not propose major changes or additions in his budget.

Community Corrections Director Tom Adkins presented his budget as well, where he proposed to add one full-time case management specialist. The position would help streamline the drug testing program and allow probation officers to focus on supervision duties.

Washington County commissioners will continue reviewing the entire 2014 proposed budget in the coming weeks, as each department makes proposals for key initiatives or changes.

County officials are set to approve the final levy in December.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.