County sets public safety budget
SIBLEY, Iowa -- With a state-imposed March 15 deadline for counties to submit their budgets for 2006-2007, Osceola County public safety commissioners said their backs were up against the wall as they settled on a law enforcement budget Wednesday night.
The agreed-upon budget, which has yet to be approved by the county's board of supervisors, was set at $866,440 -- nearly $37,000 more than what the county and cities had offered for law enforcement. The additional funds will be taken from public safety reserves.
Dick Mataloni, a Sibley representative on the commission, was quick to point out that taking money from reserves to solve the budget would be a one-time deal. He said funding for the department's communications remains unsettled and needs to be worked out in the next contract.
Commissioner Arlyn Pedley, of Ocheyedan, also addressed the communications funding.
"For me, the communications is an issue, but once again, our back is against the wall to get a budget done," he said.
Gene Philiph, attorney for the public safety commission, said the issue will need to be resolved eventually.
"We recognize that we're not sure what to do with the communications (funding)," he said. "For this year, it's in the budget, but for a future contract, that's something we probably would want to negotiate."
To help solve the funding issues of the communications budget, a special committee was established Wednesday night to research the issue.
Approval of the law enforcement budget came after Philiph addressed the group and pleaded for cooperation and a resolution.
"We've come to the conclusion, really ... that we want good law enforcement and it's the best insurance the taxpayers of Osceola County can get," Philiph said.
He relayed his concern that if the county funds a low-budget law enforcement department, criminals would take notice.
"If you don't have good law enforcement, I can guarantee you that the more professional-type criminals will pick up real quick," Philiph added. "We sure don't want to get into that trap."
Philiph told commissioners a good police department is going to cost money. Costs are going up everywhere else, and it's to be expected that wages and costs will rise in law enforcement as well.
"We've got to make sure that everything is covered and covered at a reasonable price," he said. "I think we can do that."
Philiph described the law enforcement budget as "bare bones" and void of any fat. He commended Sheriff Doug Weber for doing "one hell of a job with the budget," and said he believes unified law is still the best option for the communities and townships in Osceola County.
Once the board of supervisors adopts the $866,440 budget for law enforcement, it paves the way for Weber to hire a sheriff's deputy for the department. The position will fill a post vacated when a deputy resigned before Christmas. In recent weeks, the county had suggested not filling the post to keep the law enforcement budget in line with what they, and the cities, were willing to pay.
Weber maintained the stance Wednesday night that seven deputies wasn't enough.
"We've always had eight deputies," he told commissioners. "In my professional opinion, I can't do the job adequately when we're understaffed."
A public hearing on the law enforcement budget was set for 5:10 p.m. Feb. 15.