Budget was stretched thin before new hires.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Two years after a drastic round of layoffs, the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department still has only a skeleton crew of officers to patrol the northern townships, officials say.
But the county is beefing up its maintenance staff for downtown Warren and Cortland buildings.
Last month, county commissioners voted to hire four new janitors, including former city fire chief and mayoral candidate James Nutt, to clean buildings that have fallen into disrepair since the layoffs began.
"There is no question the custodians are needed," said County Administrator Tony Carson, who pointed out that the 20-person maintenance department looks after more buildings now than every before.
After the new hires, the maintenance department is down five employees from pre-layoff strength.
The sheriff's department is about 25 people short of its authorized strength of 143 officers and jailers.
It costs about $25,000 a year for the county to employ an entry-level custodian, officials said. An entry-level deputy costs about $50,000.
"I'm concerned for keeping the safety forces up to strength, but we also have to be responsible for he buildings," Commissioner Dan Polivka said.
Another round of layoffs for county employees is considered likely next year as commissioners grapple with an estimated $5 million to $7 million revenue shortfall.
"Our area of primary responsibility is 400 square miles with a population of 48,000 and we just have two officers on duty for the entire county," said Chief Deputy Ernest Cook.
Before layoffs last year, five or six deputies had been scheduled to work the roads on most shifts, Cook said.
The sheriff's road division faced steep cuts as officers were transferred to the jail to replace laid-off correction workers. A rash of rural burglaries took place about the same time the road force was reduced, Cook said.
"I'd like to put a couple more deputies on the road, but we don't have the money," Sheriff Thomas Altiere said. "They [the commissioners] control the money."
The sheriff's department never asked if it could have more money for deputies, Carson said.
"They didn't even tell me they were down," said Commissioner James Tsagaris. "I thought they had as many people as they ever had."
Even before the new custodians were hired, the maintenance department was on target to spend $90,000 more for salaries than it had in its budget, said Adrian Biviano, chief deputy county auditor.
He said he did not know where the money will come from to cover the shortfall.