Deputy jobs added back to dept

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Department will add three deputies to its diminished ranks after a 3-2 vote Wednesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

The cost is about $83,000 for each position for the remainder of the fiscal year that runs through June 30, 2013. County administrative staff recommended filling just one of the positions while the Sheriff's Department requested a total of five.

Supervisors Darren Spellman, Gary Tofanelli and Steve Wilensky agreed to the compromise while supervisors Merita Callaway and Tom Tryon voted against adding the three positions.

Callaway said she could not support recurring cost of salaries with what budget analysts described as one-time funds, carried over from the prior budget year that concluded on June 30.

"We've never (used) one-time money for positions," she said.

The Sheriff's Department lost deputies to budget cuts during the previous four years and wrangling in regards to its budget has caused tensions between both Sheriff Gary Kuntz and predecessor Dennis Downum on one side and supervisors on the other.

Wednesday's budget hearing, which sets the stage for a final budget vote at the Sept. 25 board meeting, was more cordial than previous meetings.

Kuntz had words of praise for the board majority following the hearing.

"It's clear that those three supervisors really do value public safety," he said.

He declined to comment for the record on the minority's stance.

Tofanelli said he was swayed by the argument that an increase in deputies will lead to a decrease in overtime hours in the department.

Auditor-Controller Rebecca Callen testified during the hearing that the Sheriff's Department has already utilized 43 percent of its overtime budget for the year prior to the close of the first quarter at the end of this month.

"The reason is … we don't have enough deputies and the crime rate has gone up with all these burglaries we have had," Kuntz said. "It's an investment up front but it will pay back dividends in the end."

Kuntz had his own Valley Springs home burglarized earlier this year. Callaway asked if the case had been solved and he said it had not. He added that response time to his own home was a dismal 25 minutes.

The need to staff special events like the "bump parties" at the Lake Tulloch Resort takes its toll on the rank and file, said Sgt. Tracy Busby, who also heads up the Deputy Sheriffs' Association bargaining unit.

"We have guys who are burned out and who prefer not to (work overtime) but we need bodies," Busby said.

When asked by Wilensky if more deputies will lead to more arrests and in turn more work for her department, District Attorney Barbara Yook replied that she expects the opposite.

"Increased (law enforcement) presence will have a deterrent effect" on crime, she said.

The Union Democrat
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