LIMA — The rising cost of operating the county jail, coupled with a staffing shortage that stems from a lack of qualified applicants, is putting a crimp on this year’s operating budget at the Allen County Sheriff’s Office.
And while the department is on solid financial footing for the immediate future, Sheriff Matt Treglia and Chief Deputy Brian Winegardner told the board of county commissioners on Thursday that supplemental appropriations will likely be necessary to get the sheriff’s office through the 2019 calendar year.
Winegardner calling the rising costs of operating the jail an “ongoing issue.”
“The (inmate) population is going up, and the price of doing business in general is going up,” the chief deputy told commissioners. “The price of food us up tremendously, and we don’t have any control over that.”
By way of example, Winegardner said frozen potatoes that cost $31.99 eight months ago now cost $42.18. A case of California blend vegetables that cost $13.25 in January now cost $16.58.
Winegardner said rising medical and pharmacy costs also “have us in a pinch.”
The commissioners were sympathetic to the financial plight in which the office finds itself.
“It is what it is; there’s so much we can’t control,” said Commissioner Greg Sneary.
But Commissioner Jay Begg suggested that some of the financial strain could be reduced by county judges.
“Maybe we can ask the powers that be about those (inmates) who are sitting in jail awaiting trial … people in jail that could be out,” Begg said. “We shouldn’t be responsible when a judge sets a high bail and people can’t afford it.”
Treglia said that four deputy positions have gone unfilled since the first of the year due to what he said is a critical shortage of qualified law enforcement candidates statewide. With that shortage has come an increase in overtime paid to other deputies on staff.
Commissioner Cory Noonan assured the sheriff that the county will find the funding to keep the jail and department running through the end of the year.
“But why don’t we sit down soon and talk about the 2020 budget, and at that time we can figure out where we are for the last couple of months of the year,” Noonan suggested.