Opinion

Kyle Troutman: Proposal a long time coming

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Barry County Commission has been mulling solutions to the issues at the Sheriff’s Office and jail for years, and although a new 0.5-cent sales tax is a bitter pill to swallow, the proposal on the ballot on April 5 is one that truly needs to pass.

Many times in these pages, we have discussed the challenges faced at the Barry County Sheriff’s Office. The biggest challenge has always been starting pay. For at least the 8 years since I have been here, the state has always supplemented the county for deputies’ pay to reach a state minimum.

This meant many times when commissioners gave across-the-board raises, deputies’ salaries stayed stagnant, with the county’s portion raising, but the state’s contribution failing to meet the minimum.

Turnover at the Sheriff’s Office has been a challenge for a long time, as has understaffing. Those issues are even worse at the jail.

It’s a problem that only money can solve. Who really wants to work in a county corrections facility for 12.50 per hour, especially one with as many security issues as the current facility has?

Or, how many people want to patrol the county, responding to domestic disturbances that may turn violent or arresting someone who is erratic and high on meth, for $31,800 a year?

Those salaries are pulled off job listings that have been up on the Barry County Sheriff’s Office website since November last year.

Barry County currently staffs 17 road deputies and 8 jailers. If this tax is passed, Sheriff Danny Boyd would like to staff 21 deputies and 12 jailers, with starting pay at $41,000 and $34,000, respectively. When Boyd arrived, jailers were making $24,000. The $41,000 starting pay for deputies would align the office with the Monett Police Department, which will up its starting pay to nearly $42,000 in April.

If the Office makes these changes and becomes fully staffed, where else can $2 million a year slow or stop some hemorrhaging?

One emphasis Boyd mentioned that is more and more important in today’s society — training.

While deputies are required to have 24 hours of inservice each year, those trainings could be much better, and the better the training, the better the officer, in theory.

The biggest difference will come at the jail, where training was not required at all. It’s a learn-as-you-go situation, which is not the safest for the jailers or the inmates.

Boyd also mentioned that training may help cut down on lawsuits, as the jail has been sued at least twice in the past four years.

Next, another giant issue that needs addressing is equipment. Deputies have to buy their own firearms, and they have to train on them. But, if deputies have different firearms, they are not required to train on one another’s.

It would behoove any law enforcement agency to have uniform, issued weapons and equipment for all deputies, where trainings are all-encompassing and no one would have an excuse for not knowing how to operate a weapon.

The different weapons also present chain of custody issues that make things more difficult on the back end if one is used.

There are other issues that needs addressing at the Office and the jail, not to mention money from this tax will also support the prosecuting attorney’s office and the juvenile office.

The county floated a law enforcement sales tax 11 years ago, a 3/8th-cent measure that failed by a 53-47 margin. In the weeks leading up to the vote, many letters to the editor were published in support of the measure.

Many of the same issues needing solved then still need solved now, and passing the sales tax would do that.

I was not living here at the time the last tax was proposed, and I do not know the reason as to why it failed, but I do have faith in our current sheriff to use the revenues wisely.

Why, do you ask?

This year, Boyd declined a $6,700 pay raise granted by the state. Instead of letting the county pay him an extra $6,700, he left that money in the general fund.

That’s the kind of leadership I expect from a public official, the kind of leadership that wins trust.

I trust our money — and the many travelers who visit the county and Roaring River State Park — will be in good hands.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of the Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.com.

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