DIXON – Sheriff John Varga’s frustration is growing, he told members of the Lee County executive committee Thursday.
Varga has been telling County Board members for months that he wants to hire two new deputies, positions once in his budget. The department now has 13 patrol deputies; 4 years ago it had 15, but the board stopped funding two of the positions.
At Thursday’s finance committee meeting, the sheriff learned that a possible study on his department’s needs might take 6 to 9 months.
Varga said his needs are urgent.
“I won’t wait 6 to 9 months to get something I’ve been asking for 5 months,” he said.
“The world’s crumbling around us, and we’re sitting here talking about how we have to do this the right way. The county’s changing. You’re talking about public safety for you, your families, my family.
“If the inmates start running the asylum, we’ll have a problem.”
Other department heads have been allowed to fill positions, or increase them from part to full time, without studies and without having to put their needs in writing, as he has, Varga said.
He presented a packet of information in November in which he projected to spend $180,737.18 for overtime this fiscal year, which is $27,267.18 more than budgeted.
The starting salary for a new deputy would be $40,500. Two deputies would cost the county about $127,000, including pension and health insurance costs, Varga reported.
Lee County Clerk Cathy Myers was allowed to replace an employee last month without a study, he noted.
He also mentioned that the board voted Jan. 15 to allow State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller to increase a financial compliance position in her department from part to full time. Sacco-Miller used $6,500 already in her budget to make that change.
“The process continues to change month to month,” Varga said. “I’ve jumped through your hoops, and other people come in, and there’s no hoops for them to jump through.”
The county has a hiring freeze, but other department heads have been allowed to hire employees anyway, he said.
“With due respect, you pick and choose as you go along,” he said.
The finance committee decided it wanted a study done on the sheriff’s department before the board decides on Varga’s request, board member Dick Binder said.
“I realize the sheriff’s frustrated, but we want to do it the right way,” he said.
Binder is on a finance subcommittee that is working on the county’s 5-year financial plan. The subcommittee will be ready in about 2 months to seek bids for the feasibility study, he said.