Alcohol tax to help pay for sheriff’s cruisers
by Franklin Clark, Reporter -- fclark@cadizrecord.com
Jan 26, 2011 | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Although two new patrol vehicles will be purchased for the Trigg County Sheriff’s Department, Trigg County’s Fiscal Court delayed action on the sheriff’s department budget at last Tuesday’s meeting.

The court unanimously approved the purchase of two new Ford Crown Victoria patrol vehicles for the sheriff’s department at a cost of roughly $53,000 via state contract. The sheriff’s department will use a large portion of a $60,000 advance from alcohol tax revenues to pay for the new cruisers.

Trigg County Sheriff Ray Burnam said that the Crown Victoria, or Crown Vic, will no longer be produced after this year, and they need to order them by Feb. 15. He also said that there are at least three vehicles in the sheriff’s department’s fleet that aren’t of use to him.

“I’m asking for two of them right now,” Burnam said. He added that while he has cruisers, two of them more than 160,000 miles on them, and “it’s only a matter of time before they break down.”

However, they also voted unanimously to table any action on the sheriff’s department budget for the 2011/2012 fiscal year, which is at about $545,000 is 20 percent larger than their budget for this fiscal year, set at about $495,000.

The biggest difference is in salaries. The current budget allots about $217,000 to salaries, and Burnam wants to increase that to about $253,000 for the next fiscal year.

Burnam said he also wants to add new new employees. That money “will be pumped back into the Trigg County economy,” and two more jobs will be created, he said.

However, “I’ve made a lot of cuts where we could to make some savings,” including in the areas of telephone and internet, added Burnam.

Trigg County Judge Executive Stan Humphries said revenues from the tax on the sale of alcohol can be used for any law enforcement purposes, including 9-1-1 dispatch, the sheriff’s department or the jail fund. He also stated that although after only one year he isn’t ready to use the revenue for recurring budget items, the purchase of new patrol vehicles is a good use for such revenue.

“It is a significant percentage. I grant you that we get a lot for that money,” said Humphries. “The numbers are up, and a lot of that is state-reimbursed.”

Responding to a question by Magistrate Jeff Broadbent, Humphries said that the money for the vehicles would come from the alcohol revenues, while the budget as a whole would come from the regular fund.

Given that, Magistrate Jon Goodwin suggested that they go ahead and approve the vehicles and give the court a few weeks to look at the budget before voting on it, as the need for additional vehicles is, in his opinion, more urgent.

Later in the meeting, representatives of Trigg County Hospital told the court that the hospital operated at a loss of about $192,000 as of the previous fiscal year. The hospital operates on a May–April fiscal year, as opposed to the county and city, which operate on a July–June fiscal year.

Liz Snodgrass, chief financial officer for the hospital, said that the hospital had ended the fiscal year prior to that with a loss of roughly $507,000. Michael Gross, chairman of the hospital, said that perhaps half of all the hospitals in the country are losing money right now.

“It’s bad, but not as bad as it has been,” Gross said.

Trigg County Hospital Administrator Alisa Coleman attributes the hospital’s continued losses to economic conditions, such as the closing of plants like Johnson Controls and the high unemployment rate, all of which resulted in more charity care. That refers to patients that can’t pay after being discharged.

Hospital Board Member Jessie Thomas, who is also the Trigg County Solid Waste Coordinator, was present as well.

In other actions, the fiscal court approved Trigg County Clerk Wanda Thomas’s new budget, which calls for a 2 percent increase in salaries of deputy clerks. Thomas’s budget goes from January – December.

The court also paid their monthly bills. Notable bills include a $70,769 bill to Rogers Group for road paving, $8,000 to Lancaster Cabinetry for work on benches at the Trigg County Justice Center, $3,777 to StrataG for the hospital’s biomass project and $4,357 to Raben Tire for tires for county trucks.

Humphries said the state will reimburse the county for the Rogers Group bill, and that the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) will reimburse the county for the Lancaster Cabinetry bill.
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