By: Jeremy D. WellsCarter County Times
Carter County Fiscal Court left deputies with the Carter County Sheriff’s Office upset last Tuesday when they took action to rescind the hazardous pay retirement they had previously approved for the department.
While Sheriff Jeff May expressed concerns that this will result in lost staff, just as he was beginning to approach the staffing levels he hoped for, Judge Executive Mike Malone said the money for the retirement just isn’t available. He also expressed concerns about future increases in the retirement funding.
In discussing the agenda item, Malone said one of the things he found concerning was that the retirement amount could go up in the future without any input or approval from fiscal court. But while future costs were a concern, Malone said a bigger concern was the county’s current budget.
“We just don’t have it right now,” Malone said.
May, referencing another agenda item related to vehicles, told Malone that the number of vehicles the department needs may change.
“We’ll probably lose three,” May said.
The department currently has eight deputies, though May said he had hoped to grow that number to at least ten.
Magistrate Chris Huddle asked Malone why the county didn’t have the money, noting that they had passed the occupational tax, at least in part, to meet the needs of the sheriff’s department.
“I thought we passed that tax… tho benefit the deputies,” Huddle said.
Malone acknowledged that they had passed it in part for deputy payroll costs, but “also to pave roads,” reiterating his concerns about future retirement increases.
“The cost is already more than 100 grand a year, and that is if it doesn’t go up,” Malone said.
He also commented on the trouble Grayson and other communities in surrounding counties were having turning in a balanced budget because of hazardous pay retirement benefits and other law enforcement cost increases.
While he said he though law enforcement was important, he wasn’t willing to spend money the county didn’t have on them or to cut other areas to pay for it.
“We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to do,” he said. “And if we do that, we can’t do the other things we’ve got to do. That’s just the reality of being in a poor county.”
Malone made the motion to rescind the hazardous retirement pay for the sheriff’s department, due to budgeting restraints, with the court voting with him in favor of the move.
In other sheriff related action, the court moved to begin the process of nullifying their fleet management contract with Enterprise, due to non-performance, and to enter into a new contract with Don Franklin Automotive.
May said while he understands that everyone is facing supply chain issues, Enterprise were not living up to their obligations even before the pandemic and associated economic fallout.
“You can’t blame the supply chain for all of this,” May said, noting they knew in advance the department needed their cars traded out every three years. Instead, he said, they have cars that have reached the end of their life-cycle, and aren’t being replaced or repaired by Enterprise.
The court voted unanimously on those motions as well.
In other business, the court also moved to approve a road slip standard method of repair from ER Assist. Laurel Matula, with ER Assist, explained that when FEMA personnel who aren’t familiar with the local landscape hear the process for dealing with road slips, it often gives them pause.
“These are people from New York City, or Washington D.C.,” Matula explained, adding that she had heard comments from FEMA staff who were reluctant to pay for repairs that were, “just dumping a bunch of rock.”
This standard method of repair document explains how rocks are used to stabilize downhill slips, and material removal is used to stabilize upslope slips in the technical language that FEMA wonks will understand, Matula said.
As part of that motion, the court also approved storm pay provisions for road crew. Those folks will be paid at time and a half for any emergency road slip repairs related to natural disasters, with the increased pay reimbursed by FEMA.
In other action the court moved to approve a contract extension with ER Assist through December of 2025. That, Matula said, is when they expect all currently open projects with FEMA to be wrapped up.
The court also moved to approve claims and transfers, accept the clerk’s bond, and discussed various paving projects.
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