Sheriff's Budget Debated

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Sheriff Billy Sollie met with supervisors and county administrator Rex Hiatt Tuesday to discuss the 2003 budget for the sheriff's department. He did not like what he heard.

"Yesterday Mr. Hiatt mentioned to the board of supervisors, as a cost cutting savings to the taxpayers, possibly reducing the number of deputies we have," said Sollie.

Seventeen of the deputies are being paid by state and federal grants, which eventually expire. Four deputies patrol the county each shift. The sheriff said cutting the number of deputies could reduce that to three.

"His suggestion of reducing the number of deputies to protect the citizens, I cannot believe he would honestly say that," said the sheriff.

Sollie said if cuts have to be made, the county patrolmen should go, not deputies. He held up a list of the arrests made by county patrolmen over the past 20 months. It showed 11 citations.

Sollie said his deputies made over 5,000 in the same time period. Each supervisor appoints his own county patrolman. They are paid the same as a deputy sheriff.

"For the supervisors to say do away with one of these and keep all five of these. They can't convince the public that that's the right choice to make," said Sollie.

The sheriff also requested 10 new vehicles but only four are in the budget. Twenty-six of his current cars have been run over 100,000 miles.

"They are constantly breaking down, having to be down for replacement parts," said Sollie. "The citizens of Lauderdale County deserve a quick response when they ask for help. These cars are not providing that."

A public hearing will be held Sept. 16. The budget will be adopted Sept. 19. Board president Craig Hitt confirmed Wednesday afternoon such a suggestion had been made but that it is not under consideration.

"At this time I know of any plans to cut back on any of the number of deputies or law enforcement within the sheriff's department," said Hitt.