County offices make presentations to commissioners
PARKERSBURG — A number of county offices are requesting additional people and/or raises in their budget requests to the Wood County Commission.
Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure, Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens and Wood County Circuit Court Clerk Carole Jones appeared before the commission on Monday to present their budget requests for the upcoming 2019-2020 fiscal year.
The Wood County Prosecutor’s Office requested $1,310,879 for 2019-2020 compared to the $1,324.463 they were budgeted for 2018-19.
Lefebure requested a five percent increase in his personnel line item for both his prosecutors and the secretaries.
“The increase in crime is real,” he said of 1,205 felony cases charged last year compared to 597 felony cases in 2014.
“We have more than doubled them over the last five years,” Lefebure said.
They have also seen an increase in abuse and neglect cases, going from 128 petitioned cases in 2014 to around 264 last year, he said.
“We have continued to see this increase in our work,” Lefebure said.
They have moved people around in their office to better handle the caseload, but more help is needed. He requested an additional prosecutor.
“I know that we are still in a budget crisis,” Lefebure said.
Given the choice, he would take the raises for his people over filling the additional position.
“The employees there have been a true asset and made my life a lot easier,” Lefebure said.
Officials said the Prosecutor’s Office played a major role in helping reduce the county’s jail bill.
Lefebure said they have worked to get cases before the grand jury faster.
“It is always about when a felony is charged and indicted,” Lefebure said. “There has been a big gap in the middle.
“We have really worked to reduce the time period on that.”
The Wood County Sheriff’s Department would like to hire five additional law-enforcement deputies. Stephens is requesting $1,760,152 for his Deputy line item compared to $1,544,152 the department was budgeted in 2018-2019.
They have had people off due to medical issues. Currently the department has 36 deputy positions it can fill. In July 2018, they had 35, but at that point they had a number of people who retired. As of December 2018, they were down to 33.
Wood County has 41,732 residents in areas not covered by a municipal police force.
“Our ratio is 1 to 1,159,” Stephens said.
Local municipalities have a lower ratio of officers to residents. The cities also us the county jail facilities and do not pay any extra for it and the county is billed for the regional jail costs.
“We pay the jail bill for everyone,” Commissioner Robert Tebay said.
Stephens said they have seen increases in service calls by 3 percent, vehicle crash calls rose 4.5 percent, arrests rose 4 percent and more.
A reason for the request of five additional deputies is he only has three people in their detective bureau.
“They work hours upon hours of overtime,” Stephens said. “With my overtime budget, we are getting close to the end of our money.
“We have to pay the overtime to get the job done.”
He wants the deputies to allow him to move experienced officers to the detective bureau to handle the case load. However, it takes a year for a new deputy to be fully trained before they can go out on their own, Stephens said.
“What is important to us is around 95 percent of public support law-enforcement in this area,” he said. “A lot of places don’t have that luxury.”
Budget request for the Sheriff’s Tax Office will remain similar to last year. Office personnel agreed to pick up additional workloads by eliminating a position and picking up the extra pay.
In years past, the sheriff had to have a budget for the county holding center. Since that facility was taken over by the state Division of Corrections, Stephens said they want to rework the expenses still covered by the county under the “Court Security” line item while eliminating the traditional budget page for the facility.
The Wood County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office requested $803,458 for 2019-2020 compared to the $691,605 they were budgeted for 2018-19.
Jones has requested two additional people with help with record scanning duties as well as fill in for others as needed in the three circuit courtrooms as well as the Family Court.
“In the office, we have no coverage when people are off,” Jones said. “We are having more grand juries.
“We have more cases.”
They went from 4,117 cases in 2015 to 4,684 cases in 2018.
Recent legislation has allowed for the removal of misdemeanour charges from records as the person meets certain requirements. Jones said that takes additional time to complete in redacting records. She also needs a new shredder and an additional public access computer terminal.
“As more records are being scanned, that is how people are able to view them,” Jones said.
Like many other county officials Jones would like to be able to give raises.
“I know things are tight,” she said. “If raises are given, I would like my employees to be considered along with everyone else.”