County officials, sheriff revive contract

Friday, January 23, 2004

After several rounds of discussions, the Cape Girardeau County Commission and Sheriff John Jordan came to an agreement Thursday that would allow a revenue-generating transportation agreement to continue.

The commission agreed that a part-time officer could be hired for transporting federal prisoners to and from court. The commission also gave the sheriff an extra communications officer, with most of that salary to be paid out of the sheriff's crime-reduction fund.

The transportation agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service will bring in an estimated $130,000 in revenue during the next year, the sheriff said, based on housing fees the jail will generate as inmates wait to be transported to federal prison after their sentencing. The $130,000 is not profit because the extra inmates also come with added costs, but it is $130,000 the county would not receive without the agreement.

At the end of December, the sheriff canceled the transportation agreement, saying the safety of the jail was being compromised when he had to pull a jailer off jail duty to transport the prisoners.

Jordan had requested a full-time transportation officer and a communications officer for 2004, but the requests were denied by the commission in the budget process. Citing a tight budget and a desire to give all county employees a standard 3.5 percent raise, the commission denied all new positions this year.

When the commission discovered that the sheriff canceled the transportation agreement, they reconsidered his request.

Jordan did not attend Thursday's meeting, but Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones outlined an agreement the two had reached in a private conversation. Commissioners Joe Gambill and Larry Bock both voted for the compromise.

The commission took action on the positions with the following conditions:

  • The part-time officer's salary -- about $18,000 with no benefits -- would come from the sheriff's crime-reduction fund, which collects revenue from a telephone contract at the jail and other donations made to the department from the community.

  • The county will collect the transportation reimbursement from the U.S. Marshals service and apply that to the full-time communications officer job, which would have a starting salary of $19,457. County officials roughly estimate that the county will receive about $12,500 in reimbursement from the Marshals Service, meaning an additional $7,000 in revenue would have to come from the general fund.

    Jordan said he was "very satisfied" with the way the situation turned out.

    "I have enough money in the crime-reduction fund to pay for the part-time position since there won't be an increase in benefits and things of that nature," he said.

    In spite of the decision, Gambill maintained his stance that the growth of the sheriff's department has to stop at some point.

    "We expect every department to live within the confines of the budget," Gambill said. "And every year, the sheriff finds a new caveat to blackmail the commission."

    Jones said there was no fighting over this issue and said he expects officeholders to stand up for their own department.

    "We just had differences," Jones said. "I don't fault the sheriff for taking care of his people. He's supposed to do that and do whatever he can to take care of his responsibility."

    But Jones said the commission can't give all the county money to the sheriff's department without sacrificing its other responsibilities.

    "Our job is to make all things balance. That's our fiscal responsibility."

    bmiller@semissourian.com

    243-6635

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