Sheriff’s department asks for salary increases

By Tony Parra

Roosevelt County Sheriff’s department officials presented county commissioners with a cost analysis on Tuesday for an increase in pay, but county commissioners stressed that it’s not in the budget.
Currently the starting hourly rate for a non-certified Roosevelt County Sheriff’s deputy is $9.62 and $10.82 for a certified candidate. In comparison, Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said the starting hourly rate for a non-certified police officer is $10.09 and for a certified police officer hourly rate is $11.53. Curry County Undersheriff Doug Bowman said the starting hourly rate for non-certified and certified deputies is $11.27.
“Here lately, I’ve had my sergeant and deputy speak to you (commissioners), because I can’t get through,” Roosevelt County Sheriff Tom Gossett said. “I have six operating deputies. We can’t make it work. Something needs to be done instead of procrastinating.”
Roosevelt County Sheriff Deputy Waylon Rains presented to the commissioners a cost analysis of what it would cost the county if there was a $2.24 increase to all of the current deputies. The total salaries of the 10 deputy sheriff’s is $262,433, with the increase the total will come up to $304,366. There was also a cost analysis for a $3.00 increase in pay in which the current salary total of $262,433.
“Our reserves are going down,” commissioner Chad Davis said. “We’ve been over budget since I’ve been here.”
The initial budget request for the 2004-05 year from the sheriff’s department was a 20 percent increase from last year’s budget. The budget request was made in the spring.
“We tapped $267,000 into the general fund,” commissioner Gene Creighton said. “I’m not saying you (deputies) don’t deserve it, but we’re in trouble with our money.”
Roosevelt County Sheriff Sergeant Rick Short said the rate of pay is the reason why the department did not receive qualified candidates for an opening as deputy sheriff. Short said none of the candidates were certified. He said none of them passed the physical test or the written test and only one person passed a spelling test.
Deputies were present at the meeting and gave talked about their situations.
“I have three sources of income,” deputy Raul Rosa said. “I can’t make it on one income. I have to have part-time jobs.”
Roosevelt County Commission Chairman Dennis Lopez said they will research options for additional money, such as whether property tax rates.
The shortage in deputies recently spilled over into the Roosevelt County General Hospital. James D’Agostino, RGH Administrator, said there was an issue with a patient who needed to be transported.
“We were at a quandary at the hospital,” D’Agostino explained. “We had a patient who was a danger to himself and a danger to our staff. We haven’t had an issue with the sheriff department. I don’t like to force the issue on anybody, but if I have to I’ll get a court order.”
Sheriff’s department officials said one deputy had to transport a juvenile to Tucumcari and another officer had to transport somebody to Chama. Gossett said one deputy had to drive to Las Cruces and was unable to return to Portales until 4 a.m. Gossett said the deputy’s shift started at 7 a.m. and he had to give the deputy a break.
“I’m stuck in the middle and I can understand budget problems, but if I have a violent patient, we need to take care of them,” D’Agostino said. “It’s a tough situation for all of us.”