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Sheriff’s office to lose deputies, as grant funds not awarded

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Mar 12, 2021


CHARLES TOWN — Sheriff Tom Hansen came before the Jefferson County Commission last Thursday to learn that the commission is converting a position previously funded through a grant to a county-paid position prior to its elimination through attrition.

County finance director Michelle Gordon explained to the commission that grant funds previously available to fund two sheriff’s deputies expired in January. When the positions were originally funded through the grant under a previous sheriff, it was agreed that if the funding was not available, the positions would be eliminated through attrition. Upcoming resignations within the next two-to-four months will help eliminate those positions.

The county, after hearing from Hansen and Gordon, agreed with Gordon’s recommendation to fund a position for the next two years, as a vacancy is expected within the next 12-18 months in the department. The position will eventually eliminate itself through attrition, Gordon explained, eliminating that salary level.

The cost to the county will be $40,009 in fiscal year 2021 and $80,000 in fiscal year 2022. Once the position is eliminated through attrition, any potential new hire would come in at a lower salary level.

Hansen, concerned over having adequate staffing to serve the needs of the county, lashed out against former sheriff Pete Dougherty.

“My predecessor misrepresented a lot of things. It’s infuriating that my predecessor put this agency and me in this position,” Hansen said, mentioning the former sheriff was well aware the grant funding was to expire, and did not follow through in seeking funding to continue the positions.

Gordon pointed out that it is always a risk to rely on grant funding.

“When you have this many grant-funded positions, you can have a perfect storm,” Gordon said. “That’s what we have here.”

In addition to the positions under discussion at Thursday’s meeting, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department also at least partially staffs officers through funds received from the Town of Bolivar and the Jefferson County Board of Education.