Projected deficit in Cole County sheriff’s budget narrowed

Last month, the proposed 2014 budget for the Cole County Sheriff’s Department was projected to have an operating deficit of $160,000, based on revenues coming in, general revenue and all expenses.

But officials with the County Commission and county finance and sheriff’s departments have shaved about $100,000 off that deficit, leaving about a $60,000 deficit that will be paid from reserve funds.

Some of the areas that were trimmed include approximately $24,000 out of administration and equipment costs, $15,000 out of medical services and an $8,000 reduction in insurance fees due to a decrease in liability issues at the jail. Other savings will be realized by not adding new employees in the sheriff’s budget and not offering raises. Officials did agree that higher health care costs for employees would be covered by the county.

Commissioners and sheriff’s officials said they appreciated working together on the issues and believe if they look at department budget issues in the middle of next year, they can get a better handle on things when the final budget has to be put together at the end of the year.

In another sheriff’s department related matter, commissioners approved an emergency order to replace a boiler at the old jail behind the courthouse.

The two that were in place recently broke down, and they are so old that there are no parts available to fix them.

Getting a new one in place will provide heat to the area where prisoners are kept while awaiting court appearances and provide hot water throughout the courthouse.

The cost for the new boiler is estimated at between $13,000-$15,000, and commissioners ordered that the replacement take place as soon as possible because of the current extreme cold temperatures.

In other action Thursday, commissioners gave the OK to have contractors go through the ambulance /emergency management base on Southridge Drive to get bids for work as they look to expand that facility.

The commission, along with Ambulance Director Mike Shirts and Emergency Management Director Bill Farr, are working on a plan to include remodeling and adding more space.

Officials with Ameresco, the firm designing the project, showed drawings and layouts covering 4,600 square feet.

The estimated cost is a little more than $1 million, and the funds would come from county reserves. The work should take six months or less to get done.

The commission looks to have another presentation on the work next month.

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