Lawrence Co. in deputy dilemma

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 22, 2001

MONTICELLO — Facing the loss of three deputies, Lawrence Countysupervisors are looking for financial answers in order to retainthe law enforcement personnel originally hired through afederally-funded program.

Expected to the address the situation at Monday’s meeting,supervisors said instead that they intended to discuss it later.There was no timetable set for the discussion.

The problem facing the board and the sheriff’s department is thepotential loss of three deputies as a result of the culmination ofthe COPS program. The federal program funds the salaries andbenefits of law enforcement officers for three years, with thecounty required to retain the officers for one year after that.

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Supervisors applied for and received three deputies under theCOPS program in 1998 and are now required to fund them. Supervisorshave to determine if and how they can fund the deputies at a timewhen county finances are already strained.

Citing other funding needs, District 1 Supervisor CareyHedgepeth expressed frustration over the situation.

“Why not? Between the hospital, law and the dump, we’re alreadyspending money like water,” Hedgepeth said sarcastically aboutproviding the needing funding.

Sheriff Joel Thames said it would cost the county about $33,000to fund the deputies through the rest of the fiscal year. Thesheriff, who was in and out of the board room during the meeting,did not approach the subject when he had the floor.

Instead, Thames informed the board that under state law, onethird of the funds received from drug fines could be channeled intothe sheriff’s drug fund at the discretion of the county board. Hesaid the county was currently not doing so and asked them to lookinto changing the policy.

Discussion among supervisors was brief, with all members insupport of funneling some of the fine funds to the sheriff’sdepartment.

” I certainly appreciate the board agreeing to that,” Thamessaid. “I think we all want to see drug activity in the countyeradicated.”

Much of the meeting was spent discussing options andalternatives to the county’s rubbish and tire disposal sites.County Engineer Jeff Dungan informed the board there were severalthings needed to bring the sites up to Department of EnvironmentalQuality standards.

He reminded the board that they were under a DEQ mandate toestablish the tire disposal site within 45 days.

The board made several decisions Monday towards establishing thesite, including hiring a company to remove the tires from the siteunder an emergency provision.

“We don’t have time to advertise and meet the DEQ requirements,”said Board President Calvin Fortenberry.

The board is confident it can meet the DEQ requirements.

In other matters, two members of the county’s EconomicDevelopment Board were reappointed Monday. Their five-year termswould have expired at the end of the month.

Tommy Carney of District 3 and John Flynt of District 4 werereappointed to another term upon the recommendation of Paul McLain,director of the Community Development Association.

The board also accepted a proposal by County Agent Jon Kilgorefor an addition to his staff. The addition comes with no cost tothe board, which is only required to supply a place for the agentto work. Kilgore said there is room in his offices for her.

Heather Ducksworth of Simpson County will join the MississippiExtension Service staff here as a home economist/food and nutritionagent. Kilgore did not say when she would arrive to begin herduties.