By Tony Parra
County commissioners voiced their displeasure during Tuesday’s county meeting with recent comments made by Roosevelt County Sheriff’s department officials regarding their deputy shortage.
“It bothers me that people say it’s our fault (deputy shortage),” Dennis Lopez, county commissioner, said. “We’re doing what we can in Santa Fe (to get money from capital outlay). The stone-throwing is getting old.”
Rick Short, Roosevelt County Sheriff Department Sergeant, said department officials continue to be shorthanded and the deputies continue to work long hours. Short said there were 10 applicants for deputy positions during the last interview session, but only one of them is being considered for a position.
The department currently has seven employees — five deputies, Sheriff Tom Gossett and Short. A normal staff would be nine deputies, the sheriff and the sergeant.
Short said pay increases for the Clovis Police Department and Curry County Sheriff department helped those agencies keep their officers.
Short said those interested in applying for a job as a deputy in eastern New Mexico would find options in Curry County more appealing than $12.80 for a certified deputy in Roosevelt County.
Commissioners pointed out that the moves made by CPD and the CCSD were made after a $2 hourly increase was made by Roosevelt County commissioners to the deputies’ salaries.
Lopez also took issue with a recent statement by Gossett.
“The statement, ‘I’m the only one who ever stands up to (the commission)’ is a broken record,” Lopez said about a comment made by Gossett in Friday’s News-Tribune. “We need to work together.”
County Administrator Charlene Hardin pointed out the road department officials are having some of the same problems the sheriff department is having finding qualified applicants and position vacancies. Hardin said during the last interview session by road department officials, only one of the 10 applicants had the qualifications and experience to fill a position.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:
• Commissioner Tom Clark said when he made a motion to provide the county administrator with a vehicle, his intention was not that the vehicle be used to be driven home. Clark said only county employees who are on call, such as Road Superintendent Jackie Grimes and road department employees, should be able to drive their cars home.
Clark said the county is paying for the gas expenses and that was not his intent during the motion.
Hardin, along with other commissioners, said she understood the incentive package to include that she be able to drive the vehicle home. The incentive package was passed during a Nov. 23 county meeting.
At the time, commissioners felt they needed to provide an incentive package to Hardin so they wouldn’t lose her to a job opportunity in Curry County.
Clark directed county attorney Randy Knudson to look into the language of the incentive package for clarity.
• Commissioner Paul Grider presented commissioners with a concept of tumbleweed eradication.
Grider said he has spoken with Dan Kennison of Nebraska, who said he has invented a machine which would eradicate tumbleweeds off of a fence line. Grider said he would like to have Kennison design an eradicator for Roosevelt County roads.
Kennison has built a tumbleweed eradicator for a rancher in Nebraska, according to Grider. Grider said the estimation of cost is between $7,000 and $10,000. Grider said he would like to have Kennison bring a tumbleweed eradicating machine to Roosevelt County for a demonstration.
“Every year we’ve had complaints of tumbleweeds,” Grider said.
A recent example was when Sharon Russell of Floyd went before the commissioners to see if they could help with a tumbleweed problem plaguing county residents. Russell said the tumbleweeds were stacked 10-15 feet high in some areas and that it took her an hour to clear a path approximately 20 feet to reach a house the family owns.
The commissioners decided they needed to have Hardin contact Kennison and receive specifications on the eradicator before they go out for bids.