MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners officially restored the resident deputy program on Monday, reversing part of the cuts made in the budget approved by the prior Board of County Commissioners.
New Commissioners Wes Cormier and Frank Gordon joined Commission Chairman Herb Welch in approving the budget item.
“For me, this has always been a done deal,” Welch said. “I never wanted the resident deputy program to go away.”
Cormier and Gordon thanked the multiple residents in the North Beach area, who had stopped by their office, called and left messages or had written emails.
“This is a big deal and I’m happy to support it,” Cormier said.
The commissioners officially restored $152,204 to the Sheriff’s Office budget.
Breaking those figures down, $52,020 was to cover an increase in costs dealing with the Emergency-911 Dispatch Center, which bills local agencies for its costs.
Sheriff Rick Scott said the bill from the dispatch center came in higher, in part, because the dispatch center had to purchase some new equipment and couldn’t rely on its reserves to keep down costs.
Another $100,184 was awarded to the Sheriff’s Office to restore some of the cuts Scott was mandated to take in the approved 2013 operating budget. The cuts specifically restore the popular resident deputy program, which keeps deputies on the South Beach and the North Beach. That should also be enough to keep the county’s courthouse security intact.
“The new board has truly been very responsive to our needs right from the beginning,” Scott said last week. “I can’t tell you how happy I am with the interest they have on these issues and the needs and issues of the Sheriff’s Office as a whole.”
The budget passed by the previous commissioners had required Scott to cut $326,791 from his $9.6 million budget. With the new money added that still means some cuts will be required, including not filling a vacant deputy position and not filling a vacant courthouse deputy’s spot. But Scott said he won’t have to lay off one of his courthouse deputies, either, which was possible under the pending cuts , leaving two in the courthouse along with his deputy director of security.
Gina Rawlings, who lives on the North Beach, thanked the county commissioners for their action and said that she hoped they would permanently take the option of not funding the resident deputy program off the table.
Former county commissioner Al Carter of Hoquiam also testified in favor of keeping the resident deputy program, noting it’s saved quite a few lives and has cut down on the time it takes officers to respond to a call.
Scott said the program has become a model for how the entire department generally operates, with deputies who live in the east part of the county covering that area, and deputies living west covering closer to their homes.
The difference is the resident deputies are on-call 24 hours a day in the period they are working and restrict their area to their specified territory. They do get compensated for the extra on-call time they are expected to put in.
Scott had said previously that the two deputies in the North Beach represent a step back from the peak of the program, which had five deputies in the North Beach and two in South Beach.
Of the five in the North Beach, three were focused from Ocean Shores to Moclips and inland to Grays Harbor City hills, and two of them were responsible for the Quinault areas.
This article contains information from the North Coast News.