Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - Updated: 2:21 PM
By Rachel Keller Collins
The Marshall County Fiscal Court last week approved the maximum deputy hire for the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office in excess of $1.3 million for 2017, part of which covers the cost of 4,000 overtime hours.
Marshall County Treasurer Emily Martin reported she and Sheriff Kevin Byars worked together to come up with the deputy hire numbers, compiling information such as the data from 2016, longevity increases and promotions for 2017. One notable difference between 2016 and 2017 is the number of overtime hours, which she said is the result of the two working together this year. Last year, she did the numbers by herself but this year, because both were involved, they were able to make some corrections regarding holiday and overtime pay. She said she feels “more confident” in the numbers this year because they worked together and in accordance with the new policy and procedures of the sheriff’s office.
This year, the sheriff’s department has 4,000 hours of overtime to utilize, for which the sheriff expressed great need. He said last year there was more than one midnight shift during which a lone deputy was in charge of patrolling and responding to calls for the entire county and “that’s not a good thing to do.” The reason, he said, was because he didn’t have enough funds available in his previous deputy hire line item to cover the overtime necessary to have more than one deputy on those shifts.
Byars said patrolling and responding to calls are not the only duties for which his deputies and detectives are paid; he said they must also be compensated for their time testifying in criminal court, which sometimes eats up three or four hours at a time. In addition, he said, the call volume in the last year increased by more than 50 percent from the previous year, meaning his deputies and detectives will have to spend even more time in court in the coming year than before.
Commissioner Bob Gold made the motion “to not tie [Byars’] hands and give him the 4,000 he requested” and modify that number in the future if the need arises. The motion passed the vote unanimously. The total max deputy hire for 2017 approved by the Fiscal Court is $1,382,500 and Byars said he will work very hard to remain under the deputy hire again in 2017.
Martin said the deputy hire “can be amended and should be amended in July if the court approves cost of living adjustments,” saying the “deputy hire is not chiseled in stone.”
Judge/Executive Kevin Neal commended Byars saying, “We’ve done a great job but I think we can do better as far as your department. We have gotten better this year; I think you were under this year. We’re doing good things and moving forward.”
Neal inquired as to whether or not the numbers of arrests related to alcohol were trending upward since prohibition was lifted and requested that beginning this year, Byars document the number of overtime hours that are due to alcohol- and DUI-related offenses, whether those hours are used in the field or in a courtroom. He said ideally, they will be able to establish a baseline for overtime, which can be used each year to establish a number that they “can honestly say” how much overtime is needed without compromising service to the community.