Daily reporting sheds light on meth problem

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A new protocol instituted by Putnam County's judges is costing keeping county departments busy, but also shedding light on an ongoing drug problem in the county.

Adult Probation Officer Teresa Parrish appeared before the Putnam County Council last week to request a pair of additional appropriations for a total of $8,000.

The council simply needed to appropriate the money for Parrish, as it was collected through probation users' fees, however, it sparked a larger discussion of the local justice system.

Judges Matt Headley and Denny Bridges recently instituted a protocol whereby certain drug offenders have to call in every day in order to meet the terms of their probation.

The daily reporting has shed light on a drug problem that authorities believed was more under control.

Trudy Selvia, who serves as the council's attorney but also as a public defender, said the reporting has revealed more violations, which is taxing the entire system, from the courts, to the prosecutor's office, to the probation office, to public defenders, to the Putnam County Jail.

While the problem is currently taxing the manpower and finances of these departments, Selvia said it can also be looked upon as a small victory, in that officials are seeing problems they did not previously know were there.

"This is shedding light that it's not under control," Selvia said.

In other business:

* The council approved a transfer in the courthouse custodian budget in order to purchase $35,000 in HVAC equipment.

The transfer is actually good news, in that it simply allows custodian Brian Smith to purchase equipment that was originally not to be purchased until next year. However, the custodians have gotten ahead of schedule in the two-year plan to revamp the heating, air conditioning and air-handling system in the building.

* The council heard that codification of county ordinances is nearing completion, with County Attorney Jim Ensley reviewing a copy of the final ordinance book. The council approved an additional appropriation to complete the job.

* Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Phil Parker requested a transfer of $15,000 from fuel to equipment so the department can purchase ballistic vests for deputies.

The request was approved.

The ability to transfer from the fuel budget is a reflection of the department being short-handed for all of 2015 as well as lower gas prices. Besides the transfer, the department has already given $60,000 from its fuel budget back to the county general fund.

* Parker was also granted permission to alter the salary structure in both the jail and merit divisions.

He told the council that in many cases, salaries in the department are not reflective of experience level or rank, with supervisors sometimes making less than their subordinates.

Department officials hope to have the adjustments made in the next couple of months.

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