Budget problems again a concern at sheriff’s office
by Jennifer Cohron
Jun 07, 2014 | 1442 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Budget woes at the Walker County Sheriff’s Office worsened this week with Sheriff John Mark Tirey notifying the county commission that he is running out of money for fuel and one investigator footing the bill for an oil change in his work vehicle.

“We’re at the point that it’s critical. I understand that the budget is the budget, and money is tight everywhere, but I tried my best to explain that it would not work last fall before this happened,” Tirey said.

As part of a 4 percent cut that impacted all county departments, commissioners trimmed $92,000 from the sheriff’s office’s $2.2 million budget and another $130,000 out of the jail’s $3.1 million budget this year.

Tirey said he was prepared Thursday afternoon to park several patrol vehicles because he could no longer afford to fill them up with gas. Commission chairman Billy Luster has now issued a purchase order for fuel that is expected to last through the end of the month.

Sheriff’s department employees were notified within the past month that the maintenance budget for the fleet has been depleted as well.

Tirey said he has paid for at least two flat tires to be fixed out of his own pocket and has learned that two deputies recently enlisted a friend’s help to replace the brakes on their vehicles.

On Friday, investigator Chuck Tidwell went to a local service station and was informed that a purchase order for June had not been issued yet to cover a standard oil change. He paid for the maintenance himself.

“We’ve been trying to do the best with what we’ve got, but we have brand new tires that we can’t get put on vehicles because we don’t have the money. Now we can’t even get the oil changed in these vehicles even though they’ve got several thousand miles on them. It’s a shame that we get to this point,” Tidwell said.

Tirey said he also lacks funds to pay for overtime and radio repairs and was recently notified about several outstanding medical bills that must come out of the jail’s budget.

A work session has been scheduled for Monday, June 16, to address concerns about the sheriff’s department budget, which Tirey said has been “unworkable” since Oct. 1.

“The only thing I can hope for is that at this next work session we go through the budget and try to make some amendments to take care of it,” Tirey said.

Luster confirmed Friday that a purchase order has been issued to cover the cost of fuel for the sheriff’s department through the end of the month.

Luster was unaware of any employees paying for vehicle maintenance.

“I haven’t heard that. If they are, they can be reimbursed by the county if they bring in their receipts,” Luster said.

Luster said he is also hopeful that a solution to the current budget shortfall at the sheriff’s department will be agreed upon during the upcoming work session.

“Hopefully, he (Tirey) will have something proposed that will make sure he gets through the end of the fiscal year,” Luster said.