Sheriff requests Douglas County Commission fund 5 new deputies in 2018 budget

The Douglas County commission meets in the historic courtroom on the second floor of the old county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

Douglas County commissioners took their first dip Wednesday into the 2018 budget process by hearing a request from Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern, which included an appeal for five new deputies.

The County Commission is scheduled to have hearings on 2018 budget requests from county departments and partnering agencies June 24 and 25. The sheriff’s presentation was moved up because of scheduling conflicts. The sheriff’s supplemental requests for new funding will be considered as commissioners craft the 2018 budget after the other scheduled hearings.

The request for the new deputies, which would add $351,888 to the sheriff’s 2018 budget, was one of two requests McGovern made.

The second request, for $64,633, would fund a new case manager position for the Douglas County Jail’s re-entry program. The case manager would visit inmates in the program who are housed in other counties. McGovern said 78 percent of those low-level offenders eligible for the re-entry program are now placed in the jails of other counties because of capacity issues at the county jail.

However, McGovern said his priority was the added deputies. The new deputies would staff his patrol division at an optimal level of eight deputies per shift, he said. It would also help his department meet increased obligations associated with the opening of the South Lawrence Trafficway and community requests for event security, he said.

At current staffing, the patrol division doesn’t have adequate numbers to safely work on major accidents or incidents, McGovern said.

The big factor in the request for deputies, McGovern said, is the overcrowding at the jail and the associated need to transport overflow prisoners to and from the jails of other counties. Another factor he cited was the requirement to transport juvenile offenders to treatment facilities elsewhere in the state, which grew from the juvenile justice reform the Kansas Legislature passed in 2016. The newly hired officers would be placed on transport duty, which would free the more experienced officers to patrol, he said.

The sheriff’s supplemental requests are not subject to the state’s tax lid legislation, which limits the mill levy hikes of local governments to increases in the consumer price index and added valuation from new growth.

In other business, commissioners:

? Were presented with the Douglas County Food System Plan that is to be part of the Horizon 2020 update of the Lawrence-Douglas County comprehensive plan. Commissioner Nancy Thellman said she would submit a few editing changes for the plan, but she and fellow commissioners complimented the plan that Lawrence/Douglas County food policy coordinator Helen Schnoes presented.

? Received an update on the county’s new open budget program that will be operational later this month. The program will allow county residents an easy-to-use, interactive portal to view the budget and its details, commissioners were told.