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Sheriff Sees Cuts In Service Coming

More than five percent?

By LOU MARZELES

Gorge News Report

Klickitat County Sheriff Rick McComas says his office could lose a lot more money than the five percent the Klickitat County Commissioners recently mandated to be cut.

Speaking at a Greater Goldendale Chamber of Commerce business luncheon last week, McComas discussed details of his budget.

"The budget for 2010, for administrative and insurance purposes, was at about $200,000," McComas explained. "Patrol and civil was $2.1 million. Jail was $1.3 million. Dispatch was $0.4 million. That was a total expense of $4 million. Out of $4 million, only $700,000 is discretionary; I can actually choose how I spend that money. The rest of it is for wages, benefits, or cost of insurance, and so forth. 9-1-1, which is reimbursed by the state, was $0.6 million. Make sure we differentiate -- 9-1-1 is reimbursed by the state, so we don't even add it in. Our dispatch for the county was $0.4 million. Just want to make sure I emphasize that."

Responding to ongoing requests from the Klickitat County Commissioners to reduce spending, McComas said his office brought the county six-figure savings.

"Last year we returned to the commissioners $136,000," he said. "After doing that, the commissioners have asked all the county departments to cut an additional five percent, and they suggested it would be in employee wages. Five percent was about $200,000. I returned $136,000. I think what was shared with us was that they may or may not consider whatever we returned toward what they're asking us to cut again. Technically, in 2011, I'm going to have to lose $336,000 somewhere," he said.

If conditions stay as anticipated, McComas foresees consequences that could adversely affect service provided by the Sheriff's Office.

He also addressed some cuts already in place.

"We're mandated by the state to provide 24 hours of training for our employees, a minimum of 24 hours per year," McComas said. "At 40 employees, you can imagine how many hours that is and what the cost is. We generally like to provide three times that amount of training."

The added training is to accommodate the demands for firearm training and emergency vehicle operation.

"We've cut back on training to the point of only what the state requires us to provide," McComas added. "Vehicles and fuels -- we're changing from the SUVs, which saved us money initially in the value of them. With our new sedans, we're now getting about 18-20 miles per gallon, in comparison to 12-14 miles per gallon on the SUVs. We had to do that. We put on over 400,000 miles a year. I intended on saving by changing to sedans, and the cost of fuel just erased that for me."

McComas also pointed out that KCSO works on industry standards on how long department vehicles and equipment should last.

"The equipment that was scheduled for three-, four-, five-year change-over replacement is non-existent," he said. "We're operating with equipment that is anywhere from five to 10 years old now."

McComas said that what it all boils down to is this: The Sheriff's Office is almost certainly going to have to make additional cuts.

"All I can tell you at this point is that it appears there are definitely going to be cuts in services coming," McComas said. "Cuts in patrol and in community programs."

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