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I-Team Waste Watch: Branch County Sheriff's Road Patrol
BRANCH COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It has been ten months since Branch County Commissioners stripped the Sheriff's Road Patrol.
11 deputies were laid off to save the county 1.2 million dollars.
But Sheriff John Pollack says now his overtime budget for corrections is through the roof, over by 76%, because he doesn't have enough man power.
In Newschannel 3's Waste Watch, we asked Branch County officials if their decision was the right one.
"We have had nights when I only had one man on duty for 47,000 people in this county, and that's really scary," said Sheriff John Pollack.
Sheriff Pollack tells us when one of his eight deputies goes on vacation or calls in sick at the jail it means more overtime costs for the county.
The overtime budget for 2013 is $30,000.
Records show the county's already spent more than $52,000 on overtime, and the sheriff tells us his deputies safety is being put at risk because of it.
"We consistently have to call people in to fill in because people are getting tired, burned out. We recently lost a trooper up north, and I face that every night when I go to bed, whether my guys are going to have the coverage they need," said Sheriff Pollack.
We brought the sheriff's overtime concerns to the Branch County Administrator, the Board Chairman and the Finance Chair.
"The safety of our public is foremost, we've got that with the troopers coming in, people out here are paying taxes for deputies and troopers, they're getting their money's worth," said Branch County Finance Chair Rod Olney.
"We're not as concerned as people think we should be because their budget is in decent shape right now, and that's what we look at, the total corrections budget, not just one individual line item," said Don Vrablic, the Branch County Board Chairman. "So was cutting the sheriff's patrol a good cost saving measure for the county?' 'We had too, yes. In my opinion yes," said Vrablic. "And you are saving money because of it?' "Yes we saved about a million plus," said Vrablic.
The county officials tell us they don't anticipate making any more cuts to the already bare bones sheriff's road patrol, but they say it will never return to what it was because the county simply can't afford it.
Branch County Commissioners also say if they do have any money to spare they'll look to the sheriff's office first.