published Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Hamilton County Sheriff seeking $30 million for next year

  • photo
    Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond speaks to the media in this file photo.
    Staff File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has requested $2.62 million more next year to upgrade an aging vehicle fleet, hire more deputies and staff more schools with resource officers.

Budget workshops -- where county commissioners hear the needs of departments and elected officials -- are slated to begin next week for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1.

This fiscal year, the sheriff received $27.38 million, and he requested $30 million for next year.

"We're going to work with whatever the commission allows," Chief Deputy Allen Branum said. "But the sheriff wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't go over there and say, 'This is what we need.'"

Meanwhile, Hammond's staff is working hard to stay within this year's budget. Fuel costs and overtime have been pressing hard on the bottom line, the sheriff said.

The sheriff's department already has spent about $90,000 more than its $407,764 gas budget with two months remaining in the fiscal year. Of the $15 million budgeted for personnel, the department had spent $12.5 million by March 31.

"One of the reasons it is so hard for us to pin numbers down is we're 24/7, 365 days a year," Hammond said.

He said he hasn't determined whether he'll have to ask the county for more money to help flesh out this year's budget.

Last year, the sheriff's office requested an additional $345,000. Of that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency eventually paid back $210,000 for the department's work during the April 27 tornadoes.

Cost estimates from this year's March 2 storms range from $80,000 to $85,000 for the department, administrator Don Gorman said. The investigation into the disappearance of Gail Palmgren -- the Signal Mountain mother who vanished in April 2011 and whose body eventually was found on the side of the mountain in December -- cost the department $40,000, Gorman said.

Additional unexpected costs include seven retirements, which require the county to pay out accumulated leave.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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