By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Three sheriff's patrol positions lost last month to the budget ax are being reinstated.
Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson and his financial director found a way to charge the state more money to house state prison inmates in the county jail.
By charging the state $16 more per inmate per day, Wilson was able to add $144,000 to his department's budget and hold onto the three positions.
"These positions are critical, especially to areas like Gasquet and Klamath," David Finigan, chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors, said at yesterday's supervisors meeting in Gasquet.
"We still have four community service officers and one detective position gone, but having these three positions back in service will help us be more proactive instead of just reactive," Wilson said.
With the reinstatement, each patrol shift will have one sergeant and three deputies on the road. Without the three positions, Wilson said shifts would be down to two and sometimes one person per shift when other deputies are ill or on vacation.
Of the three patrol positions eliminated last month, only two were filled. The department was advertising to fill the third position.
And despite the budget cuts, the two deputies were not laid off. Instead, they were kept on the job while Wilson looked for more funding.
"We held them in limbo. The sheriff was able to work real well with the county administrative officer to keep the patrolmen until we could find some other funding," said Tim Athey, the Sheriff's Department's patrol commander.
Athey said it was the department's finance director, Clinton Schaad, who worked with the state Department of Corrections to renegotiate how much the county is paid to house sentenced parolees and "low offender" prison inmates in the Del Norte County Jail.
The state often uses county jails to house its inmates due to overcrowding in state prisons.
The county was charging the state about $30 per inmate per day. After some comparisons to other counties' contracts with the state, Schaad found Del Norte had been miscalculating the "daily jail rate" for many years.
With help from a state evaluation of how the county could charge the state, Wilson and Schaad found that the department could charge $46 per inmate per day.
On average, the jail houses about 22 state inmates each day.