Columbia County panel OKs sheriff’s request for another deputy

January 10, 2019

Just hours after he took the oath of office Monday, Columbia County Sheriff Roger Brandner heard what he’d hoped to hear from all five members of the county board’s Executive Committee — that, as far as they’re concerned, he can have the additional deputy he wants to hire, and the county can probably afford it without having to amend the 2019 budget.

Brandner told the panel that the 22 patrol deputies on the department now aren’t nearly enough to address the more than 48,000 calls for service the department got in 2018. That’s up from 45,000 calls in 2017, Brandner said.

“We have been a department of reactive patrolling, not proactive investigation,” Brandner said.

Dan Drew of the town of Pacific, the board’s first vice chairman and chairman of the Finance Committee, said Brandner’s request for a new deputy is being considered after the 2019 budget has been adopted to allow Brandner time to transition into leadership of the sheriff’s office, and to assess the need.

“I’ve been assessing it for months, if not years,” Brandner said.

One of the drivers of the increase in the number of calls is the opioid addiction epidemic, Brandner said.

Last year, he said, there were 103 calls that involved overdoses of opioid drugs, including not only heroin but also legally prescribed painkillers.

The cost of a new deputy’s wages and benefits, about $81,000, is available in the existing budget in all likelihood, said county board Chairman Vern Gove of Portage.

That’s partly because the sheriff’s office expects to return $200,000 to the county’s general fund — money that the department budgeted, but didn’t spend, in 2018.

Supervisor Nancy Long of Lodi said she needed clarification as to how much of the cost of a new deputy would come from county tax dollars, and how much would come from other sources such as grants.

For the additional deputy, Brandner said, all the cost of compensation would come from tax dollars, but he said he does not anticipate having to use tax dollars for equipment, because grants are available.

Also, Corporation Counsel Joseph Ruf noted that hiring a new deputy will likely save money that the department spends now for overtime, and that offset can be applied to the costs of the new deputy’s wages and benefits.

The panel also gave their unanimous blessing to promoting a deputy whose focus is drug investigations to deputy sergeant, and paying that deputy to reflect the job responsibilities related to drug investigations. Brandner said the cost of the promotion, about $4,895, is available in the department’s drug budget.

Supervisor Barry Pufahl of Pardeeville said it’s clear to him that the sheriff’s office needs more people on patrol.

“These guys are the ones standing between the problems we have and our citizens,” he said.

The county board’s Human Resources Committee had approved Brandner’s requests last week.

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