MIAMI – Ottawa County officials went into the holidays with a lot on their minds – and some with heavy hearts.
Ottawa County commissioners learned at Monday’s regular meeting that, despite budget constraints and a responsibility to hold its monthly payroll to $77,000 (with 25 full-time and one part-time employee), the sheriff’s office recently sent two newly hired employees to the County Clerk’s office for processing and benefits enrollment.
Another was planned for this week, according to Robyn Mitchell, County Clerk.
After discussions with District Attorney Kenny Wright and Excise Board Chairman Larry Gatewood, the commissioners voted to hold Sheriff Jeremy Floyd (who was not present at the meeting) personally and financially liable for any and all budget overages going forward, meaning the sheriff would have to pay them out of his own pocket.
This comes after the sheriff’s monthly payroll reached $83,000, which is $6,000 a month over the amount budgeted in July for fiscal year 2019-2020.
Wright said, “There’s a process to be followed. I have talked to the sheriff ad nauseam.”
Also discussed was the fact that the sheriff’s office has continued to incur comp time expenses for employees (mainly dispatchers), despite repeatedly being asked to come up with a plan to alleviate comp time having to be paid and to communicate his intentions.
According to Mitchell, an audit of the sheriff’s office comp time records is currently underway.
“You can’t just continue to go over your budget,” District 3 Commissioner Russell Earls said. “One day, the well is going to run dry. We’ve just got to get a handle on this.”
As for the two employees who had already started the hiring process, and the third one that was planned, Wright told Mitchell to tell them they are not hired due to budget shortages and to refer them to him if there are any questions.
“It’s disappointing, especially at this time of year,” Floyd said. “I know there’s some mixed communications across the board as far as what numbers we have and what they are saying, which I’m still trying to understand.
“It’s pretty evident our budget got cut — approximately $400,000 from this fiscal year — and we have made a tremendous amount of pay and staff reductions to try to maintain that. It’s gotten to the point where it’s a public safety concern. And people need to be concerned, because we are operating one deputy a shift and they want further cuts from us because we can’t pay this or pay that? It’s alarming. It’s upsetting for me, not only as sheriff, but as a taxpayer.”
As a point of reference, in the 2010 census, Ottawa County’s population was 31,848 and the county covers 485 square miles.
One deputy per shift to cover an area that large and with that many people is the basis for the sheriff’s concerns.
In another matter, the commissioners went into executive session to discuss a lawsuit filed in January 2018 by Jack Dalrymple against the county.
It was noted that, “Public disclosure of these confidential communications would seriously impair the ability of the board and its attorney to process and defend this litigation.”
After returning to the regular meeting, the board announced they had decided to accept a settlement agreement that had been presented to them.
The details were not disclosed and Dalrymple declined comment.
Commissioners also opened bids for the annual janitorial service contract at the courthouse from Lisa Hill for $2,200 a month, five days a week, and from Carol Hilton for $2,500 a month for the same.
It was decided that Mitchell and District 1 Commissioner Mike Furnas will meet to discuss the issue and the board voted to table the matter until the next meeting.
Bids for printing county ballots needed for the elections in 2020 were also opened Monday and included printing regular, absentee, and sample ballots.
Bids were received from the Royal Printing Company for 13-1/2 cents each for one size, and 14-1/2 cents each for another, and from Midwest Printing for 14 cents and 14-1/2 cents per ballot, depending on size.
Verna Farris, Ottawa County Election Board Secretary, recommended that the Midwest Printing bid be approved because of their past performance and experience, which the commissioners approved.