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Fate of county jobs still uncertain

Deputy Frank Villarreal talks to sheriff's dispatch calling for units to respond to a domestic violence incident. In about one hour's time, Villarreal responded to four calls for deputies. Villarreal said the Sheriff's Department is already short of staff, and "less reputable people will try to take advantage of us being understaffed. The only losers (in staff cuts) will be the victims of the crimes," he said. (Eric Caldwell).
Deputy Frank Villarreal talks to sheriff's dispatch calling for units to respond to a domestic violence incident. In about one hour's time, Villarreal responded to four calls for deputies. Villarreal said the Sheriff's Department is already short of staff, and "less reputable people will try to take advantage of us being understaffed. The only losers (in staff cuts) will be the victims of the crimes," he said. (Eric Caldwell).

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

Budget problems will likely cause layoffs in some county departments.

How many Del Norte County employees will be let go and from which departments is not known, according to the county's Chief Administrative Officer Jeannine Galatioto.

"I have to have the budget balanced by Oct. 1, and I think there will be some positions with people in them that will be eliminated," Galatioto said.

A final hearing of the 2003-2004 fiscal year county budget is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Flynn Administrative Center. Final layoffs and other cuts will be announced then. By law, the final budget must sent to the state by Oct. 2.

Though Galatioto and other county officials have successfully whittled down a $1.7 million budget deficit without laying off workers, there is still $100,000 to chop out and only jobs can be cut, according to Galatioto.

"There aren't many vacant positions left, because we've eliminated most of them over the last two years. ... There will be some positions with people in them that will be eliminated," she said.

Other employees currently in positions that will be cut will be offered positions that are now vacant.

All employees were dealt a 5 percent reduction in work hours and corresponding pay.

So far, the Del Norte County Sheriff's Department has taken the brunt of cuts, as it is the largest deficit-spending department in the county budget.

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors took action Sept. 18 to restructure the Sheriff's Department by eliminating three patrol deputies, one of two detectives and several other positions.

Though Sheriff Dean Wilson is out of town, Patrol commander Tim Athey is currently in talks with the county to assure no one "walks out of the Sheriff's Department without a job."

"Some will lose pay, but the bottom line is we don't want anyone to walk out of here without a job. But there will be loss of personnel on the streets," Athey said.

After the restructuring of the department, Athey said there will be a maximum of one sergeant and two deputies working each shift.

"That doesn't include vacation, injuries, training — all of which are required by the state. So, if we send someone to school, then we'll be down to a total of two people patrolling the street for that shift," Athey said.

Before the staff restructuring, the department was set up to have a maximum of four officers patrolling.

"Now we will be working short staffed and we'll have to take things on a priority basis," he added.

Money was also taken from the sheriff's budget that Wilson earmarked for testing and training a volunteer reserve force.

"The county is in some serious financial straits," Athey said.

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