In their second board meeting of the new term, Pike County supervisors were hit with requests for substantial funding increases — plus news of some potential big savings.
Public defender Paul Luckett asked for $800 in office rent, and Sheriff James Brumfield requested $178,580 for uniforms, guns, bullet-proof vests, furniture, overtime and vehicles.
On the other hand, new road superintendent Wendell Alexander said he can buy road-sealing material for a fraction of the cost of what has been used, at a savings of $250,000.
Luckett told supervisors his department is in dire need of office space. Luckett, along with two other attorneys and an investigator, had used the election central building behind the courthouse, but it’s being renovated and will become the province of the election commission.
“We’ve been asked to relocate, but as of now we’ve got nowhere to relocate to,” Luckett said.
Last year his department handled 300 cases. “I don’t know what to tell my clients,” Luckett said.
“We have to have privacy. We have to have those files sealed. It’s almost to a critical point — it is at a critical point.”
He said attorney Dee Shandy has offered to rent out a furnished building across from the courthouse for $800 a month, not counting utilities.
“I think $800 is extremely fair. That would enable us to start work tomorrow,” Luckett said.
Supervisor Robert Accardo noted the county owns two buildings that could do the job, however: the former election commission headquarters behind the courthouse, and the former health department building on Highway 51 North, Magnolia.
“Since the county owns these two buildings, for us to go out and rent a new building, I think the public would skin us for that,” Accardo said.
He asked Luckett to be patient.
“I think the logical place to put your office is going to be in the old election commissioners’ office,” said Accardo, a former election commissioner.
Later in the meeting, supervisors discussed renting Shandy’s building on a short-term basis until they can get one of the other two buildings ready. After the meeting, four of the supervisors — Accardo, Lee Fortenberry, Sam Hall and Jake Gazzo — toured the two available buildings.
They said the old election commission headquarters — also known as the board of supervisors building — appears to need only cosmetic work.
The health department building is much bigger than public defenders would need but could probably be ready after a thorough cleaning, supervisors said.
They planned to resume discussions at their next meeting, 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 23.
More funds for sheriff
Sheriff Brumfield showed supervisors a list of items he said are necessary in the interests of public safety. They include three uniforms each for 12 new officers, including bullet-proof vests, duty rigs, guns and holsters for a total of $58,980.
Also needed are 30 uniforms for corrections officers at $12,600.
Brumfield requested $15,000 for the planned move of investigators’ offices into the back of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks building on Highway 51 North.
He asked for $40,000 in payroll overtime, much of which will go to staff the upcoming Willie Cory Godbolt murder trial in February, projected to last three to four weeks, seven days a week.
And he asked for two additional patrol vehicles at $26,000 each.
“We’ve got at least 12 officers out there now that do not have a uniform,” Brumfield said. “We have some officers out there using their own gear.”
He wants all officers to wear the same style uniform and carry the same caliber gun. Now there’s a mix of 9mm and .45-caliber handguns.
Many bullet-proof vests are out of date, said Brumfield. Chief Deputy Brad Bellipanni demonstrated how straps holding vests up can sag, exposing the heart.
“I wouldn’t ask for it if we didn’t need it,” Brumfield said. “This is public safety.”
Board president Hall said he wanted to study Brumfield’s request along with the already-approved sheriff’s budget.
“The previous administration stayed well within the budget in most categories, and I commend them for that,” Hall said, referring to former sheriff Kenny Cotton. “Historically, supervisors do not change or amend the budget.”
Gazzo said he has a background in criminal justice and family members in law enforcement.
“We’ve got to have our officers with equipment to do the job,” Gazzo said. “I’m 100 percent behind that. Me personally, I’m going to stand behind law enforcement.”
Accardo agreed but said, “I’m a budget hawk and I’ve got to watch this budget.”
Supervisors took the request under advisement and said they will address it at the next board meeting.
Extra money for roads
On the plus side, Alexander presented supervisors with a revised four-year road plan and some good news; He said he can get waste sand for $4 to $5 a ton instead of light rock for $55 a ton for road sealing projects.
That will mean a savings of $250,000, he said.
Supervisors praised Alexander not only for that but on a prompt response by road crews in several situations recently, such as removing downed timber from roads.