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Commissioners discuss new budget

By Staff | Feb 25, 2009

The Tyler County Commission addressed issues with the current budget, as well as next year’s budget, at their Feb. 21 meeting.

Prosecuting Attorney Luke Furbee approached the commission first with budget concerns for his office. Furbee has approximately $12,000 extra in his current budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year that he would like to see carried over to next year’s budget for his office.

“The long and short of it is we’re going to have $1,335 in insurance that’s not going to get used,” explained Furbee. “We’ll have one less family plan than we had last year, which is $8,752. There is probably going to be around $2,000 in the rest of the line items that are not going to be used.”

The additional money, if put back into the prosecutor’s budget, would be used to increase the salaries of his employees.

“I’ve had Lisa Stackpole full-time since I started,” stated Furbee. “I’d like to keep her that way. Toni Van Camp is at half-time right now and there is a possibility of moving her up to three-quarter time. The workload in the office isn’t what it used to be.”

Furbee cited figures, comparing the workload to 25 years ago when the Circuit Court ran approximately 15 indictments a year. Currently the court handles 30 indictments a year. The court is also seeing an increase in Magistrate Court cases.

With both staff members working full-time, Furbee said it would allow his office to do more, including asset forfeitures.

“I would like to do more forfeitures in the drug cases,” said Furbee. “I think that would work for our benefit if we were able to do that. That’s an additional workload if we start doing that aggressively in every drug case.”

Furbee also asked the commission to look into replacing the roof on the Magistrate Court, where the Prosecuting Attorney’s office also resides. Commission President Charles ‘Pork’ Smith told Furbee that replacing the roof was a priority.

“We have contacted Tim Meeks and he says there is still funding in courthouse improvements,” said Smith. “We’ve got the ball rolling in that direction.”

Commissioner Bob Wable, who puts together the county budget, asked whether Furbee wants to increase salaries beyond that of other county employees.

“Historically what we’ve done is we tried to keep all the personnel in the courthouse and your personnel at a fixed salary, which everybody got the same,” commented Wable. “The problem is when you start giving increases like that to two employees, the other 35 employees really would like to have the same increase and that’s where we run into problems.

“I think that comparable employees in offices elsewhere are paid significantly greater than what is being paid at this time,” responded Furbee.

Sheriff Bob Kendle approached the commissioners about the hiring of another deputy. Kendle explained that the department is stretched thin between road patrols and court security.

“I’ve been here two months as Sheriff, but I was involved in the Sheriff’s Office for over 30 years and there have been a lot of changes,” noted Kendle. “That’s obvious. Our drug problem in this county is growing. We have more people in court.”

According to Sheriff’s Department figures, deputies spend over 40 hours per week tied up in court cases.

“If I had another man, we could start addressing this,” said Kendle. “It wouldn’t be a cure-all, but it will help with addressing the drug problem. It will free me up to do more in court. Ideally we could use 10 deputies. Realistically I know we can’t do that. One man right now would be a great asset to my department.”

Smith told Kendle that the commission is working on acquiring the necessary funding. Kendle has a candidate in mind for the job who is already trained

“That’s something we’re working on,” stressed Smith. “We just need a little bit more time, but we understand. I’m pretty confident we can have an answer in time.”

Kendle also asked about purchasing a new law enforcement vehicle. The department fleet includes five vehicles: two Dodge Durangos, a Chevy Trailblazer, a Jeep Cherokee, and a Ford Crown Victoria. The Jeep has the most miles, having over 100,000 miles.

The department is looking at Chevy Tahoe for $27,000. A radio, in-car camera, light bar, and other equipment would also need to be purchased. The Jeep would be given to the new deputy.

The vehicle would be paid for by both the commission and the department, splitting the cost in half.

The commissioners also voted to make the courthouse property smoke-free. Kendle has been receiving complaints about courthouse patrons blocking entrances, throwing cigarette butts on the ground, and rubbing them out on the courthouse walls.

“I have been observing and getting complaints of people standing in front of our doors here at the courthouse smoking,” said Kendle. “Some of the people who are smoking are rude and won’t move. I have also noticed where people have been stubbing out their cigarettes on our walls.”

Kendle asked the commissioners to make the entire courthouse property, including the parking lot, smoke free.

“I think that’s a great idea,” remarked Wable. “Let’s do it and see what happens.”

In other business, representatives from both the Middlebourne Public Library and the Sistersville Public Library approached the commission requesting budget money for next fiscal year. The state is cutting funding to both libraries. Middlebourne is requesting $6,000 and Sistersville is requesting $5,000.