Promotions and pay changes to rectify inequities among deputy positions have received the approval of the Merit Board of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department.
Additional office hours and an inventory of equipment and services are also in the works for PCSD.
Sheriff Steve Fenwick and Chief Deputy Doug Nally presented the recommended changes to merit board members Charlie Roach, Larry Sutton, Bill Newgent, Dorothy Brown and Jerry Birt on Tuesday.
The promotions saw Sgt. Tom Helmer elevated to captain in charge of the day shift and Deputy Dwight Simmons to lieutenant in charge of night patrols. And the board agreed with pay changes that brought all deputies in line with their rank and years of service.
Nally said some pay inequities had occurred for years, and now the deputies who also have canine responsibilities will be compensated as they should have been all along.
"We're trying to do things as we think they should have been done for a long time," the chief deputy said.
The funds for the changes came from the vacancy of Fenwick's former position as jail commander. And that position's merit pay will be transferred from the jail budget to allow an additional merit deputy to be hired next year. The search to fill that position will begin before the end of the year, the sheriff said.
Nally noted that those changes have already been presented to the county council, which approves budgets and appropriation changes as the fiscal body of the county.
The merit board also agreed that the changes are needed.
"We are one of the larger counties in terms of road miles to be policed, and we have fewer deputies, and we have paid them less than deputies in other counties," Sutton said.
Another change to be coming for the sheriff's department will be the addition of Saturday office hours to allow members of the public who cannot take care of business on weekdays to have access to the office. The public will be able to apply for gun permits, background checks, request copies of reports and handle other business during the extended hours. Those hours will be announced.
In a review of in-house equipment, Nally said he has found that the department provides cell phones for several employees, as well as pagers for the deputies. Since the county's new dispatch center is able to send pages to cell phones, the department will eliminate 28 pagers and the accompanying cost.
Nally said he will also work on an inventory of other equipment, including weapons, and will request assistance from the State Board of Accounts in making sure the department complies with state requirements.
As for vehicles, Nally said, an audit has been completed on the vehicles in the department fleet. Several of the unused vehicles parked at the department's firing range have been removed from the insurance roll, and the surplus will be auctioned off. Arrangements have already been made with other local agencies having need of a vehicle to purchase at a low cost some of those surplus vehicles.
Several of the older police cars with high mileage will also be replaced, since they are costing a lot in repairs. The fleet will be brought back up to power with the help of the county prosecutor's asset forfeiture fund. And, the new vehicles will be the standard brown and tan Ford Crown Victorias, Fenwick noted.
The merit board commended Fenwick and staff for the changes.
"I think you guys have taken hold of what was an unpleasant situation, not running very efficiently, and have begun to turn it around," Sutton said, "and I applaud you for that."
"Most definitely," Roach concurred.