The program could subsidize costs for housing local inmates, officials say.
By STEPHEN SIFF
and PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Officials at the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department are hoping a new plan to house federal inmates at the county jail could ease the most recent round of layoffs.
Discussions are still preliminary, but officials hope the jail could bring in $1.2 million a year, for taking in about 66 inmates a day. The inmates would be sent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. Marshal Service. The revenue would have to be earmarked for sheriff's department expenses, to cover personnel and other costs of the operation.
Sheriff's department officials reached out to the INS because they said the U.S. Marshal Service could not provide enough inmates to bring in the needed amount of money.
"We were getting about 30 or 40 a day from the marshal," Sheriff Thomas Altiere said.
Ernie Cook, chief of operations at the jail, said he is hoping to get a written commitment from INS officials sometime today.
"The INS is interested and it's a way to get some more revenue," Cook said. "If we can get the extra inmates we can open up another floor and bring back employees."
The program could also subsidize the expense of housing local inmates, officials say.
Until a few weeks ago, the department participated in a program to house federal inmates. The program brought in about $750,000 each year, but the money was not earmarked for the sheriff's department.
The program was eliminated with the first round of layoffs. At that time, pink slips were sent to 47 department employees.
Layoff notices are expected to go to an additional 27 Trumbull County Sheriff's Department employees today, despite an extra $750,000 earmarked for the department in a county budget approved Thursday.
This next round would bring the number of workers in the department down to 68, from 142 before the layoffs began.
Because of the cuts, there will be some shifts with no deputies patrolling the roads, said chief deputy Ernie Cook. On other shifts, there will be just one car with two deputies in it.
"I feel sorry for the townships that we patrol," Cook said. "Apparently, safety is not a primary concern in the county."
More money in budget
The budget passed by commissioners Thursday spread out an additional $3.6 million among various county departments. The money is anticipated revenue from a 0.5 percent sales tax increase approved by commissioners last month.
The largest piece of the pie of the additional funds will be the sheriff's department, which still must lay off because it had been hoping for more.
The new budget also includes $30,000 to allow the metropolitan parks board to maintain parks and open a new bike trail, and an additional appropriation for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
Trumbull County has set aside $185,000 to pay the airport in 2003, and will likely increase that amount to the airport's full $247,000 request as better estimates of tax revenue become available, said county Commissioner Michael O'Brien.
A budget passed by commissioners last month called for 40 percent reductions in salary expenses at many county departments, including the treasurer's, auditor's and commissioners' staffs.
Reduction in cutbacks
In the new budget, salary expenses are to be cut by 20 percent from the 2002 level in these departments.
A 70 percent reduction announced for the county maintenance department has been scaled back to about 40 percent.
Top administrators working under the commissioners, including clerk/administrator Roselyn Ferris, purchasing director Tony Carson and personnel director Jim Keating, will take a 10 percent pay cut, officials say.
Because he is on sick leave, maintenance department director Tony Delmont's pay has not been cut.