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Stark County sheriff: More staff needed

Increased activity in Stark County has Sheriff's Office staff becoming "burned out," Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said recently. He is pushing county officials to allow him to hire three additional staff as soon as possible.

"We try to run 24/7, around the clock, but there's times when we can't because of lack of manpower and training and sick leave and stuff like that," he said. "I think it's a service we have to try to provide to the citizens of Stark County."

There are 16 positions at the Sheriff's Office, including office staff. Tuhy would like to add two deputies and a second sergeant.

The staff has been working several hours of overtime, he said. In 2010, the department paid $24,000 in overtime and $37,000 in 2009, he said.

"Hopefully we can eliminate overtime by having extra officers," Tuhy said.

However, the additional three positions would cost the county about $90,000 in wages and $20,000 each for employees' benefits, Tuhy said.

"Along with adding more staff, you're going to have to think about adding a couple more vehicles," Tuhy said. "It's going to be an expense, but we're service-oriented."

The county did not plan to add officers this year.

"I think it's something that should be added next year because we don't have it in the budget," said Stark County Commissioner Pete Kuntz. "I would say they are kind of short-handed."

He agrees activity has been up recently and would like to see one position added in 2012.

"We can always go with one and go from there," Kuntz said. "Maybe later on we could add another one."

Tuhy said he needs three positions this year.

"We have to be proactive instead of reactive," he said. "It's not that Stark County isn't getting services by the Sheriff's Office, but the thing is everybody's getting worked to the max."

He is also anticipating an increased demand for courthouse security.

"We're trying to do the best we can with what we've got," Tuhy said.

Calls for service at the Sheriff's Office were down in 2010 with 7,840 compared to 8,149, but Tuhy said that's not a fair comparison.

In 2009, any call in the county was recorded as a call for service, whether it was for the fire department or any other agency, he said. In 2010, the office began only recording calls the Sheriff's Office responded to.

Counties of similar size and population vary greatly on their staff size and budgets.

Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching's budget increased dramatically for 2011 and nine staff were added, he said.

The bump was so the department could better handle oil activity in the area, Busching said. He feels his staff is adequate now.

"If the economic growth, the oilfield and everything else that's going on stays the same and does not grow, we're OK," Busching said.

Stutsman County has far less staff than Stark County does, Sheriff Chad Kaiser said.

"We could use one to two more people, but we don't have the oil boom," Kaiser said. "Our overtime is pretty high in our budget."

There are also about four to five hours a day when deputies don't patrol in Stutsman County, he said.

"We don't have the staff for it," Kaiser said. "The last guy out is on call."