It seems there are a few questions surrounding the ARPA funds and Defunding of Law Enforcement in Bates County that I would like to address.
On October 4th 2021, I attended a meeting with the County Commissioners, multiple other office holders, members of the public and media.
The discussion was in regards to the application of the county to the Federal Government to receive its portion of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 or known as ARPA.
At that meeting I gave a formal written request for funding reimbursement of Radio Communication Equipment along with reimbursement for hazard pay given to employees during the COVID 19 pandemic. (attached is the letter of request). Both which fall within the guidelines of acceptable expenditures of ARPA. I believed at that time the formal written request was sufficient in its format as the Sheriff’s Office is an internal county entity. I was advised sometime in April that the county had created a form for requests and was given a copy of the form. I did not fill out the form because I believed the submitted request was in the similar format that another office holder had submitted and received funding. It is my understanding that the Sheriff’s Office did not receive funding because I did not submit the second formatted request. As of today I have not received anything official from the County Commissioners in regards to my request.
I understand clearly that the decision on how the ARPA funds were to be dispersed was solely at the discretion of the County Commission and they are responsible for ensuring that the funds are used in a manner compliant with the Federal Government’s requirement. I understand that I can still request funding using the appropriate form from the second round of ARPA funding but will not likely do so at this time.
The Sheriff’s Office has already purchased the upgraded radio equipment from our operating budget and put them in service. The used digital radio equipment that was upgraded has been dispersed to other local police departments and fire departments to help upgrade their communications equipment.
The request was for reimbursement for the cost of those upgrades and hazard pay. I have watched over the last several weeks the citizens' concerns and wishes with the ARPA funds.
Being reimbursed for the expenditures the Sheriff’s Office would be able to help fund School Resource Officers positions for rural schools. After a review of our current budget standings we have enough funds to fulfill those positions and will be moving forward with that program.
I would like to address “rumors” that there was an attempt to defund the Sheriff’s Office. On Wednesday January 12th I attended a budget meeting with the Commissioners in regards to projected revenues and expenditures of the Sheriff’s Office. Prior to this meeting a balanced budget was submitted to the County Clerk who is the Budget Officer for the County.
During this meeting several line items were discussed and I answered the questions presented to me by the County Commissioners.
On Friday January 14th, I received a call from the Budget Officer advising that the commissioners were in the process of cutting the Sheriff’s Office budget. I arrived at the Administrative building to discuss the proposed cuts. I was advised that since the Sheriff’s Office had not spent the money on multiple line items they did not feel the budget amounts should remain the same. I asked if the cuts were based on revenues and reserve funds falling short of estimated expenditures of all the offices that are billed out of the Law Enforcement Fund. I also asked if all the county offices were receiving cuts in equal percentages as required by law. I was advised that no other office was receiving a budget cut. I strongly opposed any cuts to the Sheriff’s Office Budget. I believe the men and women who work for the Sheriff’s Office are hard workers. I believe that they serve our County very well and deserve the best pay, training and equipment. I left the office and I was later advised by the Budget Officer that my requested budget was eventually approved as submitted.
Since 2009,through our contracts at the Sheriff’s Office we have generated in excess of $45,000,000 for the county allowing for our reserve money to build to over $3,000,000. This allows the Sheriff’s Office to expand to better serve our community without asking for additional local taxes as many Sheriff’s Offices across the state have had to do. We are also the primary support agency for all other law enforcement agencies in the county and have covered other law enforcement agencies calls for service when they were short staffed or had no staff. Without the budget and contracts that we have none of this would be possible.
I hope this clears up the confusion or rumors on these two topics and would like to assure the citizens of Bates County that the Sheriff’s Office has never been more financially stable than it is right now. That is thanks to the men and women who work hard for our citizens.