Sheriff's department denied request for new vehicles as work continues on Smith County's budget


Sheriff Larry Smith made his pitch to the Smith County Commissioners Court Wednesday for new cars, more officers and higher compensation for his department.

But if one theme emerged in the second day of the Court's budget workshop, it was that there are always more needs than there are resources.

Smith was among seven departments and representatives from other public service agencies to present information and take questions from commissioners during the second day of budget workshops. 

The majority budget requests came from the Sheriff's Office. 

County Judge Nathaniel Moran thanked Smith for "squeezing the budget a lot lower than it started, and it already started low."

Sheriff Smith requested nine new police vehicles to replace aging units in the fleet, but commissioners did not grant any, citing the vehicles' acceptable condition despite high mileage.

Sheriff Smith claimed the department has nine vehicles which will have driven more than 200,000 miles by April of 2018, the earliest time replacements could be ready.

The Sheriff's Office vehicle budget will decrease compared to last fiscal year, as the department nears paying off its most recent vehicle purchases, while not making any new purchases. 

Commissioner JoAnn Hampton expressed interest in Vehicle Reman, a business in Tyler which remanufactures fleet vehicles for local governments and businesses for a lower cost than purchasing new.

Sheriff Smith responded that such a solution would be better than nothing.

"I would hate to see us responding to an emergency call, a life or death situation, and end up stranded on the side of the road," Smith said. 

Sheriff Smith expressed concern over staffing and payroll funding, saying Smith County is "training them up for other" law enforcement agencies to recruit his staff at high pay rates.

Among his requests were 10 new detention officers for the Smith County Jail, but that request was denied. The court opted instead to approve additional overtime for current staff, as well as renegotiating its contracts with the federal government to house inmates. 

Sheriff Smith said the county currently receives $20 less per prisoner in allowance from the federal government than other comparable prison systems, and persuaded the Court to add the matter to its agenda two weeks later.

Commissioners did approve the addition of another patrol deputy and changes to the certifications of many Sheriff's Office employees to allow higher pay for obtaining additional certifications to help with retention.

Following the sheriff's testimony, leaders from 15 public service agencies were invited to address the court to explain services they provide the community and costs they save taxpayers to justify receiving grants from the county budget.

Commissioners will continue to craft the budget throughout the summer.





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