Sheriff seeks commission backing to add deputiesBy TOM GIAMBRONI Staff Writer
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LISBON -Columbiana County Sheriff Ray Stone would like to seek federal stimulus money to fulfill a campaign pledge of adding two deputies, but he wants the permission of county commissioners before he proceeds.
Stone said he has asked to be placed on the agenda at the commissioners April 1 meeting to discuss applying for $113,000 under the federal Community Oriented Policing Servicing (COPS) grant program, a program revived by President Barack Obama in the recently passed federal stimulus bill.
If awarded, the COPS grant covers the entire cost of the deputy for up to three years. Stone would like to apply for $113,000 per year, which would be enough to pay the salaries and benefits of two entry-level deputies.
The county would be required to pick up the entire cost of of the deputies starting the fourth year, which is why before Stone applies he wants the support of commissioners since they are the ones who would have to commit the additional county funding. Failure of commissioners to assume the costs without obtaining a financial hardship exemption would make the county ineligible to reapply for three years.
"They would have to sign off before I do anything," said Stone. The application deadline is mid-April.
Since winning election in November, Stone has been pressing commissioners for additional funding needed to hire two more deputies to fulfill a campaign promise. He said the vastly understaffed sheriff's office desperately needs the additional deputies so the detectives can spend more time investigating crimes instead of performing deputy duties.
Commissioners have told Stone they are reluctant to provide additional funding for the two deputies during a recession because a drop in revenue could force them to cut the sheriff's budget, forcing him to furlough the deputies. Commissioners suggested Stone use money from the fees paid his office for processing foreclosures to add the two positions, but he is afraid that source of money would drop once the economy turns around.
Stone might be able to apply for the COPS grant without the commissioners' support, but he won't, for obvious reasons. He also understands where the commissioners are coming from and their concerns about a drop in collections from the county sales tax.
"I can see their point," he said. "My odds are slim to none, but I've got to try."
Meanwhile, Stone said his staff if pursuing other federal law enforcement grants that might provide him with money to purchase equipment, such as stun guns.