MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace is finding little support for a plan to add nine positions to his department.
Gerace broke down his 2013 budget Monday during the Chautauqua County Legislature's Public Safety Committee meeting.
"We need those positions back," Gerace told the legislature's Public Safety Committee, noting the increase in calls for service in 2012 as well as population growth within the County Jail. The sheriff's office in 2011 responded to approximately 47,000 total incidents.
"Our local inmate population has gone up dramatically," Gerace said. "I don't have the authority to commit someone, and I don't have the authority to release someone."
Legislator Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia, asked if a pilot program that provides indigent defenders with counsel at arraignment has reduced the local population at the jail. Doing so would allow the sheriff's office to house federal inmates, which brings in a subsidy from the government.
Gerace, however, said the pilot program has not slowed growth in the jail, pointing out that he has no control what a judge will do with a defender after arraignment.
"We're trying to get fewer people (in the jail), but that's completely up to the judge," he said.
Expenditure in the sheriff's office next year is projected at $23.7 million, which would remain largely in line with costs this year. Revenues, however, are expected to drop next year by $1 million, creating the increased local share, Gerace said.
The sheriff pointed out that he lost 16 deputies and one clerical position this year, resulting in a "below bare bones" operation.
"We're getting annihilated here," Gerace told The Post-Journal. "We're getting in all these emergency calls and there is no one here to take them. Our response time has increased."
The sheriff formally requested from committee four full-time deputies, four part-time deputies and one full-time dispatcher; the additional manpower would result in a $425,000 increase in operating costs above County Executive Greg Edwards' tentative budget.
The county executive released his spending plan last week.
After discussion, the committee opted not to vote on the additional sheriff positions. Bob Whitney, D-Jamestown, did recommend creating two full-time positions, one dispatcher and two part-time positions. The motion, however, died after failing to receive support.
In other news, the Public Safety Committee voted to recommend eliminating an investigator in the District Attorney's Office and one in the Public Defender's Office. Coughlin estimated that by getting rid of the "duplicated services," the county would save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Coughlin also recommended eliminating one vehicle in the District Attorney's Office, and noted that a private investigator could be brought in on a case by case basis at a reduced cost to the county.
"It's just something to look at," he told the committee. "It's a duplication of service."
Coughlin asked David Foley, county district attorney, "Have you ever looked at eliminating that investigator position?"
"I don't know if anyone has ever asked us that," Foley replied.
The county's Audit and Control Committee will review all recommendations Friday during its review session.