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Witzleb: ‘We need to listen to sheriff’

Members still at odds over need for $45,000 study

DIXON – Lee County Board member Greg Witzleb said Tuesday that he questions the need for a study on whether Sheriff John Varga needs two more deputies.

The cost of the study, estimated to be about $45,000, is “a lot of money,” Witzleb said.

Varga for months has been asking to hire two more deputies, which would bring the total to 15. That’s how many he had 4 years ago, until the board stopped funding two of the positions.       

The board finance committee has requested a feasibility study. Varga opposes it, saying that it will take too much time to complete and that county departments have been allowed to hire or increase part-time positions to full time without a study to justify the move.

“To me, we’re just kind of targeting the sheriff for this,” Witzleb said. “I think it’s time we start putting more trust in our department heads, specifically with the sheriff. I think we need to listen to the sheriff.”

Board member Marilyn Shippert said she favors a study for the Sheriff’s Department, and the entire county. “We need some basis for the decision other than ‘we need some deputies,’” she said.

“We haven’t approached hiring in a consistent manner, but we have to get some consistency.”

Varga presented information in November that projected spending $180,737.18 on overtime this fiscal year, which is $27,267.18 over budget.

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.

Witzleb suggested the board take the cost of the study and instead spend it on a new employee in the sheriff’s department. If a study is done, the board should commit beforehand to following its recommendations, he said.

“If we commission a study that says we need more deputies, and we decide not to hire any, we’re wasting the county’s money,” he said.

A finance subcommittee is working on the county’s 5-year financial plan, and will be ready in about 2 months to seek bids for the sheriff’s department study.

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