Sheriff having problems filling vacancy

By Tony Parra

The Roosevelt County meeting on Tuesday turned into a discussion about the help of Roosevelt County Sheriff’s department, to come up with an incentive for working at the department.
Roosevelt County Sheriff Tom Gossett said he wants to work with the commissioners on trying to come up with a solution for the lack of qualified candidates and lack of interest in the opening for a sheriff deputy.
“We don’t have any incentives for certified people,” Gossett said. “The starting pay is pretty low for certification. We will be losing two deputies to the national guard. We do not have the adequate people to protect the community.”
The starting hourly rate for a non-certified Roosevelt County Sheriff deputy sheriff is $9.62 and for certified, $10.82, according to Roosevelt County Sheriff officials.
Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said the starting hourly rate for a non-certified police officer is $10.09 an hour and for a certified police officer the hourly rate is $11.53. Curry County Undersheriff Doug Bowman said the starting hourly rate for non-certified and certified deputies is $11.27.
Gossett said even if the hired someone who is not certified, that person will have to go to the academy for six months and will be on the department’s payroll for that time. Roosevelt County Sheriff Sergeant Richard Short said the department has to take another dilemma into consideration if it is decided to increase the hourly rate in pay to for example $12.82 for certified deputies.
“It all revolves around the pay per hour,” Short said. “If the pay is increased for those starting out it’s not going to be fair to the others who are making $11.50 an hour. The same amount of boost should be throughout the department.”
Commission chairman Dennis Lopez directed County Administrator Charlene Hardin to get together with Gossett to come up with a solution, look into options for increase in pay and research hourly rates and a comparison of salaries from other New Mexico departments.
Another highly discussed topic at the meeting was the additional expense for the Roosevelt County clerk’s office for the upcoming general election in November. The additional cost stems from having to have an alternate site for absentee and early voting for the state-mandated 11 days.
County clerk Joyce Fraze said the state mandates that the county must have an alternate voting site if it has 10,000 registered voters. Fraze said Roosevelt County is about 50 registered voters away from hitting the mark, and the additional cost to the county would be from $6,000 to $7,000.
“We need the commissioners to talk to the legislators about changing this bill (which requires an alternate voting site),” Fraze said. “The printing costs nearly triple. This would make sense in Lea County, where you have two cities, Hobbs and Lovington, with a big percentage of the population in the county. So that way people from Lovington don’t have to drive to Hobbs to vote. But in Roosevelt County, a large majority of the population lives in Portales.”
Commissioners agreed changes need to be made to the bill with commissioner Tom Clark calling the bill, “ridiculous.”
Also, Roosevelt County Corrections Administrator Jesse Luera said the Detention Center’s inmate population has risen to 72.
“We’re going to have to look into the possibility of moving some people,” Luera said. “I’m afraid it’s (population) going to continue to rise. It’s going to be more costly as time goes on.”