Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TOP STORY >> Lonoke sheriff needs more deputies

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson last week told the quorum court he shouldn’t be criticized for having a handful of deputies who have accumulated more than the legal limit of compensatory hours.

He said the court should instead be supportive of his actions that have reduced those hours owed deputies by nearly 75 percent, from more than 45,000 when he came into office to about 14,000 currently.

Roberson said criminals don’t work normal business hours.

“We can eliminate the overtime as soon as we can get these rapists and murderers to work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through
Friday,” the sheriff said.

Quorum court member Mark Edwards brought up the issue last month, and the court voted unanimously to pay off the hours that put two deputies over the legal limit at that time.

Roberson was not at the meeting, but said the criticism was unfair.

Edwards was not at the meeting Thursday night, but the quorum court members seemed mollified.

Roberson took the opportunity to lobby for two additional deputy positions, saying that would help, but not eliminate, the overtime problem that leads to the county owing more payroll to deputies.

The sheriff asked if a crime is being committed, particularly a violent crime, should his office bypass the nearby deputy who has amassed a lot of overtime in favor of a deputy working his regular shift, but who is farther away from the crime scene?

Another problem with deputies taking time off is that they all want off during deer season or Thanksgiving, for instance.

No action was taken on Roberson’s request for more deputies, but the budget committee will consider the matter.

Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman announced that when the new county jail is finished, he might convert the current jail and sheriff’s office quarters into a courtroom.

Currently, the county leases a building for its third circuit courtroom.

He said he also is not getting any financial help from Ward or Austin, which had promised to help pay for or provide a dispatcher.

In the only action item on the agenda, the court authorized Troutman to apply for a $15,000 grant on behalf of the County Fair Board.

The Lonoke County Conservation District gave its annual report to the court, with commissioner Bob Bevis noting that collections on the 1/2 mill voluntary tax had fallen from $50,000 in recent years to $18,000 last year.