Commissioners are waiting on a final budget in Wichita County so they can make plans but the preparation is already underway. Commissioners just wrapped a second day of talks about the budget. Today the Wichita County Sheriff and Emergency Manager both made their case for the 2012 budget. These agencies have been in the spotlight in recent weeks because of the wildfire outbreak in Texoma .
Commissioners heard a lot today from Sheriff David Duke and his team. Top of mind for him is the county jail. It's operating under a very tight budget and, according to the Sheriff, the jail population is at capacity.
Sheriff Duke is hoping for more money to operate the jail in 2012 that could help improve safety. The Sheriff says right now they are operating short handed making the jail capacity an even bigger issue. Today the jail is short twelve detention officers, nine candidates are ready to go to work but there are expense concerns regarding their psychiatric and background evaluations. There are other positions the Sheriff is prepared not to fill to cut back in other areas. There was a lot of talk today about getting more beds, or more room for the inmates and ease overcrowding.
Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom says, "right now they are doing a good job, we're running right at the top but we'll have to look at that before we build more jail beds, there are some other things the jail commission is going to require us to do no matter what." There are other concerns about expanding the jail because that will also cost the Sheriff's Department more money. Judge Woody Gossom says adding more beds requires them to build an infirmary, a food preparation facility, and an additional booking center. That expansion could add up to as much as 12 million dollars.
Emergency Management Coordinator Lee Bourgoin also attended today and his concerns were equipment related. Especially because of crews working in the field over the last two weeks because of wildfires.
Tomorrow commissioners will have their last budget session at 1:30pm at the Wichita County Court House. District Courts at Law, the Court Administrator, and the County Judge will be making their cases for the 2012 budget.