Ruark anti-substations; Davis wary of cost

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sheriff hopefuls split on need for satellite offices

Barry County's two candidates for sheriff are split on the idea of substations, with one entirely against them and the other seeing a need but worried about the cost.

Barry County Deputy Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, said he does not like the idea of substations and sees the endeavor as a waste of time and money.

Ruark

"The money spent on the buildings and computers linked to the internet would not be worth it," he said. "We have a station in Shell Knob, but it is rarely used as far as I'm aware. It doesn't even have a computer, just a phone and a bathroom. It's just a place to go and make a phone call, and with cell phones, that's not necessary."

Former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, said there is a need for substations, but the same as any other project, funding is the deciding factor.

"One place we need one is Shell Knob, because it's so hard if you're in [distant parts of the county] to get there," he said. "It could be 30 or 45 minutes because of the roads. It would be ideal to have a substation in Shell Knob, and having an officer there would make it easier to cover the rest of the county, because those guys elsewhere would know they would not have a call of shots fired and have to respond from the other side of the county."

Davis said even if a substations were implemented, staffing them would also become an issue.

"We have 21 deputies total, and that includes one chief deputy, three bailiffs, one deputy to transport evidence and four detectives," he said. "By definition, none of them are on patrol. They can fill in, but they don't have to. So, that leaves 12 deputies, and on any given day with vacation, court time or training, maybe less. Realistically, we at best have 10-11 deputies to cover the whole county, 24-7, and that's why it takes us 30-45 minutes to get some places."

Ruark said instead of opening substations, he has another plan -- mobile substations. He believes if officers can get computer equipment in their cars, every patrol vehicle would, in essence, become its own substation.

Davis

"That would allow our deputies to be in different areas more often, instead of being at the office or substation," he said. "The longer we can keep deputies in their cars, the more patrolling they can get done. If I'm elected, I would want the deputies driving around, speaking to the public, asking questions and taking care of things they need to take care of."

Davis said a substation, like in Shell Knob, could be a good place for a deputy to hang his or her hat, and the room at Central Crossing Fire Protection district is available, but the Sheriff's Office would have to pay for the equipment.

"It's a reasonable thing to think we could assign a person there at least 40 hours a week, and maybe not even the same deputy," he said. "We have an advantage in Shell Knob right now with [Sheriff] Mick [Epperly] because he lives there. I know the Park Ranger, Steve Jabben, at Roaring River, goes an patrols the Viola Park, and Mick made him a reserve so if he stumbles across something, he can handle it as a deputy.

"Part of me says it would be good to put a substation in the Washburn-Seligman area, but that's only 10 minutes from Casvillle, so do we need to incur those expenses if it's money we don't have?"

Davis said more rural areas, such as the northeast and northwest parts of the county, may benefit more from having an spot for deputies to go.

"Those are not major population centers, but but any crime there is just as important to those residents as any crime that takes place on the square in Cassville," he said. "It would be more ideal to have more deputies. We have about the equivalent of half a deputy for every 1,000 people, after you take out the populations from incorporated areas of the county. The ideal rate is a lot higher, and the national average is 1-1/2 or 1-3/4."

Ruark also said even if deputies had computers in their cars, the sheriff's office still needs more of them.

"For the size of our county and the area we need to cover, we are understaffed," he said. "Even with computers, it's hard to be everywhere at once. Instead of spending money on a substation, maybe we use those funds to put another car on the road.

"My goal is to add to the department from its current status. Everything Sheriff Epperly has done has been great, and I want to continue with that by getting more cars on the road and more equipment to do reports in the cars, which will keep deputies patrolling. That will help with the theft and drug problems."

Davis and Ruark square off in the general election on Nov. 8.

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