|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 06 April 2011 00:00|
Tight budgets and a lack of staff means the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office can’t follow up on all crimes reported, Town Marshal Dave Smith said last week.
Smith was outlining his office’s situation before the Camp Verde Town Council at their March 30 budget meeting.
The marshal’s office has lost five deputies and two dispatchers over the past couple of years, Smith said. The town’s budget situation hasn’t allowed the office to hire more personnel to fill in all the gaps.
Those officers included two detectives and three patrol officers, Smith said, leaving the office currently without any detectives and 10 remaining officers dedicated to patrol.
“We have a sergeant in there, but only the most serious crimes are getting any follow-up,” Smith said. “The ones with little or few leads, we have to prioritize.”
There is currently a deputy undergoing training who may be moved over into investigations, Smith said.
Smith said that the office tries to keep a minimum of two deputies on patrol most of the day, with one on duty in the “wee hours,” defined by Smith as between 4 and 6 a.m.
“It isn’t anything I really like,” Smith said. “A lot of time in those wee hours is when domestic violence occurs.”
It’s dangerous, Smith said, since the office doesn’t send an officer by himself or herself into a potentially volatile situation.
The marshal’s office is also concerned about the future of the school resource officer, a deputy who spends time at the Camp Verde Unified School District. The position is mostly funded through a state grant, Smith said.
The state budget situation is far from certain, Smith said, and there’s no guarantee that the same funding will be available for the upcoming 2011-2012 fiscal year.
“The school may be able to fund it, but I’m not so sure,” Smith said.
Smith said he thinks the marshal’s office should be able to make it through the next budget year with its current fleet of vehicles, although many are aging.
The council set aside money for the department to buy a new vehicle this budget year, Smith said, but the office didn’t need to use it after being awarded a grant from the governor’s office for a new K-9 vehicle.
“The only real thing that concerns me is the price of gas,” Smith said.
When it comes to non-enforcement duties, Smith said the marshal’s offices had plenty of volunteers who were a big help in taking care of some jobs.
Smith said the marshal’s office will continue to actively look for any grants that may be out there.
The Town Council also heard updates from other town departments, including the following:
Community Development Director Mike Jenkins said that with the recent massive rewrite of town planning and land use codes, there were no other big projects on the horizon. Jenkins said that the town is required to have a new general plan by 2014. It’s a process he thinks will take around two years and he feels they can wait until the 2012-2013 fiscal year to begin the process.
The court’s case load has doubled since June 2010, according to the report, and the town can expect to see small increases in budget needs. The court is requesting some funding set aside for training, some of that required by the state.
Library Director Gerry Laurito said aside from the need for money for training, the library should be able to continue operating at its present budget levels. Laurito said he’d like to be able to send someone to a statewide library conference usually held in Phoenix or Tucson. The library hasn’t sent anyone to these conferences in a couple of years and Laurito said they’re important training and networking opportunities. The library is also getting some funding from the town’s portion of shared gaming revenue from the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Town Clerk Debbie Barber said the clerk’s office was expecting a reduction in funding, largely due to the loss of an employee earlier this fiscal year. The loss of the employee led the remaining employees to find ways to work more efficiently, Barber said.
Barber also recommended that the council increase its own travel and training budget. Those funds had previously been cut, but Barber said there are some conferences held that are vital sources of training, especially with new council members preparing to take their seats in June.
Finance Director Melissa Preston said that the department could expect to spend less on consulting fees, now that she’s been hired as the full-time director. Preston also said she would like to see some training opportunities for the department. The town can also expect to pay more in employee retirement benefits, scheduled to increase by 10.75 percent. There are other increases the town will be responsible for, including worker compensation.
Public Works Director Ron Long said the town had saved enough money in its Highway User Revenue Fund to move forward with the purchase of a nearly 17-acre equipment yard on Industrial Drive. The town has been renting the property for years; most of the council feels the time is right to take outright ownership. Other projects will move forward in the upcoming fiscal year, including improvements at Butler Park, painting and re-carpeting some town buildings, external improvements to the town library, a cover for the town swimming pool, work on sprinklers and gutters and culvert improvements in Verde Lakes.
There are renovation plans for the town-owned Rio Verde Plaza shopping center, but Long said he intends to recommend putting actual construction work on hold.
The new budget must be approved in coming months by the Town Council.
“This is our budget,” Town Manager Russ Martin said. “This is not the staff’s budget, this is not the council’s budget, this is the community’s budget and hopefully at the end of this process we will have a budget we can be proud of.”
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