DOBSON — Back in the winter county officials showed their support for education by earmarking tens of millions of dollars for renovations in a bond issuance.
Now the county manager is showing support for law enforcement with his recommended budget.
One of the seats up for election this fall is county sheriff. At a candidate forum before the primary, all four men vying for the Republican nomination mentioned the need for more deputies, especially in light of the drug problem with both prescription opioids and street meth/heroin.
County Manager Chris Knopf, Sheriff Jimmy Combs and Chief Deputy Lauren Osborne held a work session this spring to discuss needs for the sheriff’s office, and some of those needs are reflected in the proposed 2018-19 budget.
When pointing out some of the highlights of his plan to the Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Knopf mentioned replacing six patrol cars with new models and hiring new employees.
“Several significant personnel recommendations are included in the proposed budget for public safety and security,” he told the board. “The creation of three new deputy positions ($295,474) is recommended as well as four new detention officers and two transportation officers ($208,936).”
Knopf explained that proposed regulation changes coming from the state would affect staffing at the jail as soon as November, which is the reason for the four detention officers.
As the county board discussed in its retreat in February, overcrowding at the jail is a growing problem. Surry is having to ship more and more inmates to other counties to be housed, and the drive alone can be more than three hours round-trip. Until the expansion of the jail is done, there will be a heavy need for workers to drive inmates back and forth, so Knopf recommends adding two transportation officers, rather than tying up deputies’ time.
The county manager recommends hiring four paramedics to re-staff Medic Crew 7 that was split up to create two teams for the quick-response vehicles. EMS Director John Shelton has suggested that this crew work a 12-hour shift during peak time (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) instead of the usual 24-hour shift.
Also, because of the work load during peak time, Knopf has budgeted $42,682 for salary, benefits and any equipment needs for an additional telecommunicator for 911.
“The creation of a senior network administrator ($58,998) is needed to handle the increasing workload due to internal security systems being placed on the county network, cybersecurity, DHHS requirements and constant assessment of our firewall and switches,” said Knopf.
The commissioners will hold a work session June 14 to discuss the budget and hammer out any disagreements before holding a public hearing and approval on June 18.
In other county business Monday:
• Stephanie Conner, 911 communications director, described problems with an F4 antenna used to relay fire communication.
She said her department has worked with its radio vendor to troubleshoot problems with the antenna on Turner Mountain, but volunteer firemen are still having problems talking back and forth in the field.
She came before the board seeking a new antenna and installation for $7,859, and the board approved unanimously.
• Don Mitchell, county facilities director, and contracted architect Tony Chilton discussed an optional security improvement at Dobson Plaza.
Unlike some other change orders that were done out of necessity because of problems found, Chilton said from this point forward most of the changes will be because of choices made as there should be fewer surprises now.
Change orders #13 and #14 refer to upgrading both the glass and panels around the tax collections area to make them bullet-proof.
Previously, the board approved a plan for ballistic glass at a drive-through window for payments. However, there were no such plans for the area where the public can walk up to make tax payments.
“Sounds like a great idea; this is the world we live in,” said Commissioner Van Tucker, noting his surprise that this wasn’t in the original design already.
The board approved $15,091 to upgrade the building materials in the collections area.
What about trying to hear someone on the other side, asked attorney Ed Woltz. It can be difficult hearing through the ballistic glass.
Mitchell and Chilton said they could explore some options and get back to the board on that.
The commissioners asked how Dobson Plaza was doing on contingency spending. Chilton said this puts the project at $69,121, which is just under half of the total $140,000 set aside.
• The board recognized two baseball players for Surry Community College.
Aaron Mitchell and Michael Roberts not only earned all-conference status for Region X as freshmen, but they each earned a national junior college Division III player of the week award.
In two games in one week in March, Mitchell, from Charlotte Catholic High, pitched 10 2/3 innings. He struck out nine batters in a two-hit shutout, then three days later pitched 3 2/3 innings of no-hit relief.
Michael Roberts, from Surry Central, not only won a player of the week award in early April, he was named region player of the year.
“Michael was the best hitter in the conference, and he was the All-Defensive Team first baseman. He could do both, play offense and defense,” said SCC head coach Tim Collins.
Roberts was second in all of NJCAA with 14 home runs and first in home runs per at bat. He was fourth in the country in slugging percentage and 12th in batting average.
Both players have another year of eligibility at the college.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.