Crimefight costs to rise Law enforcement officials seek $700,000 increase

'A good investment'

Spending proposals elicit few questions from commissioners

March 20, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Fighting crime in Carroll County will cost taxpayers about $700,000 more next fiscal year, under proposed spending plans unveiled by law enforcement officials yesterday.

Sheriff's Department officials are seeking an additional $400,000 a 9.6 percent increase over this year's $4 million -- to hire 10 correctional officers next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The officers will be needed when a 100-bed addition to the jail opens, as early as December, said warden Mason Waters.

The proposed budget for sheriff services, which includes the Carroll County Detention Center, is $4.4 million.

Officials from the Maryland State Police barracks in Westminster are seeking about $300,000, or 8.5 percent more than the $3.5 million the county allocated this fiscal year, for the resident trooper program, funded primarily by the county.

The County Commissioners this week began the arduous process of reviewing the budget requests of department heads. Law enforcement officials presented their budget requests during a morning session at Bear Branch Nature Center.

The hearings resumed last night with spending requests from the Volunteer Firemen's Association, library officials and the Carroll County Cooperative Agriculture Extension Office.

Budget director Steven D. Powell has recommended that the county spend $180 million on day-to-day operating expenses -- 7 percent more than this year. He also has proposed $43.7 million for big-ticket items, such as school and road improvements, which is 15.4 percent less than this fiscal year.

The recommendations are based on the county's ability to fund various requests while retaining the property tax rate at $2.62 per $100 of assessed value.

Commissioners Richard T. Yates, W. Benjamin Brown and Donald I. Dell received the proposals on law enforcement with little comment and few questions.

"People living in a growing county have to realize that [law enforcement] costs more. There are more demands for services, and it's a good investment," Brown said.

In addition to correctional officers, jail officials are seeking money to hire a third nurse and a part-time pre-trial release monitor. Waters said he expected his staff to handle 16 to 20 defendants in nonviolent cases in its pre-trial release program, which monitors those awaiting trial without holding them in jail. The program has regularly had more than 30 cases.

The commissioners questioned Waters about jail crowding. He said the daily inmate population has averaged more than 170 and peaked recently at 191. Brown asked whether home detention would be a better alternative for weekend inmates to ease crowding.

Public safety is the priority, Waters said, adding that he would rather deal with crowding than risk using a home monitoring system that was poorly run.

Sheriff John Brown has said he will place work-release inmates in tents in the jail's enclosed courtyard, if crowding continues. Waters said tents could go up soon, if the jail population exceeds 190 inmates.

"We'll be out of options," he said.

Included in the state police proposal is $105,000 for an additional trooper for the barracks' drug enforcement unit.

The proposal also includes a 4 percent salary increase, plus an additional $1,275 per trooper, which is being sought through the state legislature.

If the General Assembly approves the request, Carroll County would have to have the additional amount in its budget, according to 1st Sgt. Andy Mays of the Westminster barracks.

Mays said troopers received a 10 percent raise last year, but that was to compensate for minimal pay increases between 1990 and 1997.

Lt. Leonard Armstrong, commander of the Westminster barracks, asked the commissioners to consider providing an additional $1,500 to $2,000 for training of a new drug unit officer. The money would primarily cover daily meal expenses for a trooper.

Powell questioned why that money couldn't come from $619,000 allocated for indirect costs.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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