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Sheriff Mike Blakely requests more than $7 million
Budget includes money for building, equipment, people and cars

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

ATHENS — One building. Two major equipment purchases. Seven people. Twenty cars.

That’s what makes up the chunk of Sheriff Mike Blakely’s request for an additional $1.6 million in funding.

On Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Department presented the request at the Limestone County Commission budget hearing.

The total request is for nearly $7.5 million for fiscal 2008. He received $5.8 million for fiscal 2007.

The request includes the Sheriff’s Department, jail, work release, school resource officers and courthouse security.

“We’re the largest agency you have, with 40 to 50 percent of the county’s employees,” Blakely said. “And we operate 24 hours and seven days week.”

The sheriff wants a building, estimated to cost $300,000, to house only low security risk inmates and also to have more storage room.

The two major equipment requests are for a computer-aided dispatch system and a digital recorder upgrade.

CAD would cost $235,210, and the recorder upgrade $20,000.

Sgt. Tammy Waddell said CAD would allow the department to enter information, such as caller complaints, into the computer system.

The system then would retrieve information from all departments on the caller, a suspect or an address.

“I hate to bring this up, but as an example, if someone like Farron Barksdale calls, and we enter his name into this system, it would pull up his mental history,” she said.

Barksdale shot and killed two Athens police officers Jan. 2, 2004, after he called the Police Department requesting a FBI agent.

He had prior mental commitments.

Waddell said the CAD system also would allow the department to create maps that denote crime statistics for neighborhoods.

The recorder system would allow the department to record phone calls.

Waddell said the department needs to upgrade to digital to record.

“We often get subpoenas for call recordings, but we don’t have that,” she said. “This also can help investigations when people call in and tell us something on the phone but then refuse to tell an investigator in person.”

The request for seven people is for five jailers and two deputies.

Lt. Vanessa Rich, who oversees operation of the Corrections Division, said Limestone has 37 jailers compared to 100 at Morgan County.

“It’s hard to do training and keep enough on staff to run the jail,” she said.

Chief Deputy Randy King said the two deputies would help address growth-related issues.

He said caseloads increase as each 100-lot subdivision is developed.

One deputy would patrol and the other would assist in invest-igations, particularly drug cases.

“I know that on Monday, the investigators had 43 cases,” he said.

King said the department also needs 20 patrol car replacements.

He said deputies are using 24 that have more than 100,000 miles. Of that number, four have over 200,000 miles and one has over 300,000 miles.

Other requests include making Deputy 1 and Deputy 2 positions so that after deputies complete the academy they can get a pay increase comparable to Athens police.

“We train them and then lose them to Athens because they can make $1 an hour to $2 an hour more,” King said.

He also is asking to create a patrol captain’s position and an operations captain position.

Limestone budget requests

The Limestone County Commission is conducting budget hearings for fiscal 2008.

The departments that presented requests Wednesday
were:

  • Athens-Limestone EMA — $225,265, which includes a request for $29,590 to have a mobile satellite system for the command center trailer.

    That system would allow responders to have cable, Internet and phone service.

  • Athens-Limestone Recycling Center — $43,247, which includes a $1/hour raise for employees.

  • Community Corrections — $394,918, which includes hiring an enforcement officer, who would have arresting powers; and purchasing vehicles, since employees are using their personal vehicles.

    Director Thurman McCormick said by next year, he wants the department to generate money to fund 50 percent of its budget.

    Participants must pay to participate and pay for drug testing. The department generated $124,632 between October 2006 and June 2007.

  • Cowford Campground — $116,090, which includes $15,000
    to install sewer for 10 to 12 camping sites, pending TVA approval.

    Cowford generated $55,725 in camping fees between October 2006 and Tuesday.

  • Elections — $402,030, which includes the creation of an elections’ director to oversee the department’s finances.

  • Information Technology — $218,670, which includes a scanner, computer upgrades, software and servers.

  • Mental Health Center — $100,490, which includes $17,000 for a court liaison.

  • Probate Judge — $719,950, which includes $90,000 for the SysCon recording system, which allows documents to be managed as digital records.

    Probate Judge Mike Davis said the county’s growth caused a record-breaking revenue year for his office with $950,000 in revenue from mortgage and deed taxes and recording fees.

    Holly Hollman

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