La PORTE — The La Porte County Council approved an additional appropriation of $116,000 to pay for La Porte County Sheriff’s Department and La Porte County EMS overtime wages due to high call volumes increasing overtime spending.
“We are just extremely busy,” said La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd.
On top of the increased number of calls, Boyd said his department has also been working short of staff and needing to backfill positions due to recent illnesses leading to call offs and the resignation of a merit deputy.
Boyd said the sheriff’s department had also been “placed behind the eight ball” to start the year due to the increased number of emergency detention transports which plagued the department early in 2018 and ate into the overtime budget.
Boyd informed the council the sheriff’s department had seen relief in the number of emergency detention deputies have had to perform since then.
La Porte County Auditor Joie Winski stated there was currently only $496 remaining in the sheriff’s overtime budget before the council’s approval of $60,000.
La Porte County EMS Administrator Andrew McGuire echoed similar reasoning for his department’s increased overtime spending, citing increased call volume leading to their budget shortage and the request for $56,000 in overtime funding.
On top of this, McGuire requested $22,000 for fuel to carry EMS until the end of the year as the increased call load also meant more fuel was being burned.
“We’re averaging about $6,000 a month in fuel,” McGuire said, estimating the current rate would mean a cost of $23,500 to make it until the end of 2018.
McGuire asked for a bit under that estimate, saying he was trying to be conservative.
The council approved the additional fuel and overtime funding along with approving $10,000 for EMS’s part-time budget and $32,172 for EMS maintenance contracts.
McGuire said the maintenance contracts were not included in EMS’s 2018 budget as he was told to return to the council and request the expenditure when needed.
The council opened the county’s wallet even wider on Monday, approving another additional appropriation of $210,000 for food expenses for the La Porte County Jail.
Councilman Mike Mollenhauer questioned the food expenses cost, stating to date the sheriff’s department has spent $633,000 on food.
Boyd stated the meals, however, only cost $1.19 per meal, which is actually two cents below state guidelines. The high cost, Boyd said, was due to the inmate population being high.
Chief Deputy Ron Heeg stated last year the highest inmate population was 339 while this year the jail has hit 394.
Heeg added the sheriff’s department usually always returns to the council in fall to replenish the jail meal budget, but is just early this year due to the increased population.
Boyd added another factor to keep in mind is the meal cost for November and December of 2017 was taken out of the 2018 jail budget, leaving the department “playing catchup.”
In other spending news, a $75,200 additional appropriation was approved for the La Porte County Planner for a grant reimbursement.
The council also supported a motion to pay $97,000 – to be appropriated at the Sept. 24 meeting – to pay for the repaving of the Juvenile Center parking lot, which was stated to be in “terrible condition” by Winski.
“It’s crumbling out there,” Councilman Mark Yagelski agreed.
Yagelski urged support of this project now, and not at a future date, stating due to low end of the season pricing the council would be unlikely to get this price again if they put the paving off.
Other additional appropriations approved by the council this week included:
• $9,200 for the La Porte County Coroner for professional services and toxicology lab.
• $20,000 to La Porte Superior Court 1 for medical/evaluations.
• $3,000 to La Porte County Parks Department for fuel.