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Renting jail cells helps budget

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig

Photo by Clarke Davis
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig

 

by Clarke Davis
To rent a room for the night, it costs $42.50 at the Jefferson County jail. That’s the daily rate, which would double for the weekend.
Assuming one has to commit a crime first, the only individuals that choose to do so are those convicted in another county, but want to spend their time at home—in their own jail.
“There is an occasional person who gets a DUI conviction in Shawnee County who will pay our rate to serve their time on weekends here,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig.
The largest customer this innkeeper currently has is Douglas County, which sent 147 inmates to Oskaloosa during 2015 and put $183,000 in the coffer.
“We don’t count on getting that much revenue, so we had to republish the budget in December for authority to spend some of it,” he said.
For a department that was running on a squeaky-tight budget in 1914 and then had the budget cut for 2015, the extra income was welcome, the sheriff said.
Most of the extra money was spent upgrading automobiles, he said. This was done with non-tax dollars.
The sheriff’s budget was over $3.1 million in 2014 and was cut by $110,000 the next year.
It was a concern, but a lighter case load and fewer arrests during the past year helped some, too. The number of cases dropped from 6,251 to 6,008 from 2014 and the number of arrests dropped from 347 to 305.
The department booked 658 into jail in 2014 and 592 last year. The number of civil cases requiring processing were 1,768 two years ago and 1,608 last year. Even the sheriff sales on foreclosures dropped off from 56 to 31.
To operate this department, the sheriff has 22 full-time and six part-time people on the law enforcement and administrative side and 14 operating the jail.
The sheriff describes Jefferson County as a “small community with big community problems.” A great deal of the law enforcement problems come not from the local citizens but from spillover from the urban centers of Topeka and Lawrence along with the 800,000 people who visit Perry Lake.
Herrig credits the good people who work for him and his undersheriff, Robert Chartier, a 20-year veteran of the department, for making the department run successfully, especially in his absence — and he is often away.
He has been active in the Kansas Sheriff’s Association for years and was its president this past year. He will remain on the executive board as the secretary and treasurer.
He was also nominated to join the commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training, called C-POST. This commission certifies all law enforcement personnel in the state. Herrig is one of three sheriffs on the commission and represents the mid-size departments.
The sheriff’s association is also active on the legislative front with some proposals of their own and a wary eye on those things they oppose.
Herrig believes his participation on the state level is important and benefits the county.
“Having a personal relationship with all the sheriffs in the state can be a real benefit,” he said.
He said they all learn from one another and help each other out.
“We are always working across county lines with our neighbors on law enforcement matters and we have good working relationships with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Highway Patrol,” he said.
Herrig said the Highway Patrol is down nearly 75 officers, which is better than the 100 it used to be short.
“We need each other,” Herrig said, “and while I pray nothing really serious ever happens in our county, I’m fully confident that they would all rush to our aid if needed.”
One example of area cooperation is the use of the sheriff’s training compound west of Oskaloosa. The county owns an old meat packing plant that went through several owners and then into foreclosure winding up county property. The building is used for training and a firing range has been developed on the grounds.
The Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Department and bomb squad have used the facilities for training and in return have answered three calls in two years in Jefferson County when a bomb squad was needed to check something out.
The sheriff’s routine when he is on duty in the county, is to finish the paperwork and administrative matters in the morning and be free to drive the county roads in the afternoon.
“I don’t just randomly drive, but I’ll try to hit an area where there’s been reports of burglaries or something else going on,” he said. “And I try to call on businesses in the communities just to know what’s going on.”
One case that’s still open and has the department concerned is a missing person case. A 70-year-old woman who lives on the reservation in Jackson County left the VFW hall in Meriden Sept. 26 and has never been seen since.
“I’ve got two people working on the case part time and they are staying in touch with Jackson County and the KBI,” Herrig said.
He said the entire area from Meriden west of the county line has been searched, but he still drives it.
“I drove much of it myself after the leaves dropped off the trees. I got out and looked under bridges and wonder if we missed some deep gully she could have driven into,” he said.
The car has never been located, although it’s on a national list to be watched for.
Herrig, 54, has been with the sheriff’s department since 1982. He was the undersheriff for retired sheriff Roy Dunnaway and became sheriff in 2012. He intends to file for a third four-year term.
“I look forward to another four years,” Herrig said.
Jeff and his wife, Melinda, reside in Ozawkie. Together, they have seven grown children and 11 grandchildren.

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Posted by on Jan 25 2016. Filed under The Independent, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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