By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
How Del Norte County's money problems will affect the safety of local neighborhoods may come to light soon as Sheriff Dean Wilson makes difficult staff changes.
Budget cutbacks are forcing Wilson to keep two vacant patrol deputy positions empty.
And yesterday's promotion of detective Gene McManus to patrol sergeant means one less crime investigator.
"What that means for us is that we'll be busier because we're dividing up the same amount of work with less people," McManus said.
There are four shifts per 24-hour day at the Sheriff's Department. Wilson arranged the staffing so that only one less patrol deputy is on the road every other shift.
That means three deputies and one sergeant on the road for two shifts and two deputies and one sergeant for the other two shifts.
"If we were two cars less per shift, that would be a safety issue, but it's organized so that only two of four shifts have one less car," said McManus.
Taking two deputy and two correctional officer positions off the books won't change service to the public, Wilson said because the positions were already vacant.
Wilson also eliminated the position of captain from the administration staff to cut budget costs.
"I believe that the restructuring will both enhance and correct some internal problems, as well as improve service to the community," Wilson said.
But not having a full staff could eventually affect operations as the currently busy staff members take on extra duty.
"It's like using the same knife and never sharpening it," said McManus.
McManus was promoted to patrol sergeant yesterday as former-Sergeant Tim Athey was promoted to patrol commander. Both began their careers at the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department in the mid-1980s.
It was the retirement of former Patrol Commander George Mina six months ago that made room for the two promotions.