MT. VERNON — After two motions failed, the Jefferson County Board approved on a 10-2 vote a staff reduction of three deputies in the sheriff's department.The reduction in force was made to help the county through a financial crisis while awaiting the return of ICE (Immigration, Customs and Enforcement) prisoners to the Jefferson County Justice Center.Board members voting against the proposal were Wayne Hicks and Jeremy Hall.While the board voted to cut three positions, in reality only one position will be eliminated. Sheriff Roger Mulch said that one employee has resigned and another employee is seeking an early medical retirement. Mulch said neither of those positions would be filled.A motion made by Hicks and seconded by Hall to table the meeting until next week to give the sheriff additional time to find additional revenues in his department failed on an 8-4 vote.A motion made by Jim Laird to eliminate the recent contract with Advanced Healthcare — the company hired to provide medical services at the jail — also failed on a voice vote.The county previously announced 28 employee layoffs, including four deputies, when ICE prisoners were taken out of the Justice Center in December due to medical issues.County Board Chairman Robert White said during the three-hour special meeting if personnel are recalled it would occur in reverse order — with deputies laid off at Thursday's meeting being called back first.The county has to give 45 days notice of any layoffs, pending contract language.Captain Randy Pollard of the sheriff's department restated from an earlier meeting an inspection of the jail is expected within two weeks by ICE officials, and the county could start received prisoners immediately.Under questioning from White, Pollard said it would take at least 50 ICE prisoners for the county to break even financially.While several numbers were tossed about, previous reports have indicated the county has about a $42,000 monthly shortfall of funds. Treasurer Dan Knox also previously reported the county will be in a tough position to meet its payroll obligations in April since there are three payrolls.Mulch attempted to sway the board to wait a few more days to find an additional $30,000 — since the county needs to cut a minimum of $22,000 in monthly expenses —resulting in Hicks' motion. Overtime in the department was discussed at length, resulting in a short recess when the sheriff was requested to provide reports on overtime costs. Those reports were not available at the outset of the meeting.Mulch told the County Board he crunches numbers in his office daily, although his reports did not match the overtime costs being tracked by the County. Neither report was provided to members of the media."Our overtime is increasing as the cash flow gets worse," said White. Mulch countered, "When manpower is cut, the overtime goes up.""We're taking on water, and part of it is this overtime. We've got to stop it," White said. "You're already over budget and the only guarantee you won't spend more money is to reduce the number of deputies.""Investigations require overtime," Mulch said. "If there are no patrol deputies, we can't do it. If you reduce the number of deputies it's your call, not mine."Mulch added later, "I know why deputies are working overtime. Could they be frugal? Maybe. A lot to it was when we had to do this budget for this year. As the sheriff, we will do what we can to make the county solvent."
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