GOSHEN COUNTY – At its second regular meeting of the month, Goshen County Commissioners heard from Goshen County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Wesley Deen in regard to its staffing concerns.
Deen, who is second in command under Sheriff Kory Fleenor, said the department is still short seven personnel after recently hiring two and says budgeting, competitive pay and high turnover are still concerns of the department.
“One of my sergeants made $1,000 more than I did last month due to overtime because we are understaffed,” Lt. Deen told commissioners on Tuesday. “We are still experiencing a rather high turnover rate due to a lack of funding for competitive pay and benefits.”
After the meeting, Lt. Deen told the Telegram the department recently hired a full time cook and nurse so that GCSO detention officers do not have to pull double duty anymore. However, he said, the department is still down four detention officers, two patrol and road officers and one control officer.
“We had one patrol officer go to Fort Laramie as the Chief of Police and a second patrol officer transfer to Torrington Police Department,” Lt. Deen explained. “Both officers left due to competitive pay concerns as well as better benefits offered at the other agencies.”
“We do have one officer at the academy right now who will be coming in to fill a vacancy not mentioned,” Lt. Deen added.
“This funding issue is going to be a problem in the future because of pay and benefits concerns – we just aren’t as competitive, and the job is very difficult at times,” Lt. Deen explained to commissioners. “All of our officers have no less than eight felony cases they are currently working on, which is basically case overload for us when you consider these are felony cases.”
Lt. Deen explained to the board that felony cases require extra time in researching, processing, going to various court dates and following up on additional leads, information or potential charges of offenders.
“It’s not like we arrest them, send them to jail and call it done. There’s more to a GCSO officer’s job in processing these cases and following them through sentencing – and in some cases, requires us to also do transportation.”
Lt. Deen, on behalf of Sheriff Fleenor, asked county commissioners to reconsider the budget needs and concerns of the department so that GCSO can recruit, attract, train and retain qualified officers.
“Some recruits we get – they can’t pass the physical exam, or psychological exams – and some even make it into the department after testing and training only to realize the job isn’t what they thought it was or that they are not cut out for the job – it’s a difficult job at times.”
Despite the budgetary concerns, Lt. Deen told commissioners the department is looking at other creative ways to attract, recruit, train and retain qualified individuals for the sheriff’s department – including getting ready to use social media advertisements and a statewide recruitment program.
“The sheriff’s department doesn’t only just offer the safety and security piece in terms of law enforcement to the county, it also provides and generates a whole bunch of revenue for the county,” Lt. Deen detailed to commissioners. “We also give support to the local municipalities law enforcement agencies and right now, we are unable to do that as often as we would like due to staffing issues, which, I hate to sound like a broken record here, but is due to budget concerns as it relates to competitive pay and benefits – we simply need more to be competitive with even the rest of the state at this point.
“But it’s not just staffing budgets, even though that’s our highest priority right now to keep Goshen (County) safer, we also have operational and equipment budget needs that aren’t being fully met at this time,” Lt. Deen added.
He told the commissioners he knows the issue of county budgeting is a “balancing act, I know, we all are aware of what has transpired here in our county over the last few years – and I’ve worked at the department for 18 years now – so, I know how good GCSO can be if fully staffed and better funded.”
Goshen County Commissioner Chairman John Ellis and Commissioner Justin Burkart were in agreement with Lt. Deen, the two offered to reexamine what budgets could be reasonably reexamined to offer GCSO more to address the concerns of the department. Commissioner Cody Cox was not in attendance because he had been called out to an out-of-state fire.
“It’s a concern for us as well, here on the board,” Ellis told Lt. Deen in response to his request. “And it’s something we certainly should look at again because, like, as you said, it’s not just a safety concern for our sheriff’s department to be understaffed and underfunded – but it’s a livelihood concern.”
Burkart added, “Yes, I agree, it could be a bit of time as we are entering the fourth quarter of the year and little can be done immediately, but we also have two new commissioners coming onto the board in January – and I would agree that myself and those two can and should reexamine what the sheriff’s department budget is so that we can attract and retain very qualified staff members.”
“It’s something we will consider going forward with the two new commissioners and the new county clerk, all of whom start in January,” Burkart explained.
Lt. Deen thanked the commissioners for their consideration and reiterated the department is in high need of their aid to continue to provide Goshen County with high quality service and commitment of safety.
Goshen County Planning Director Mike Tietjen told commissioners the Goshen County Road and Bridges Department is addressing the planning of windmills in two parts of the county, as discussed in a previous meeting and Telegram story, and that his concern remains to be the potential issues for landowners, residents and potential destruction of both lands and roads.
“We took a journey to get an idea of what another jurisdiction has experienced over the last 10 or 12 years as it relates to these windmills coming in,” Tietjen explained to commissioners. “Myself, along with the county road supervisor – you know, has real world experiences to this, and looked at what problems were made, what promises were kept and which ones were not in these other jurisdictions.”
Tietjen said this sort of preemptive strategy of the county allows the county to be proactive in addressing potential problems and concerns as these companies move forward and on private lands. “They are coming, and there really isn’t a whole lot we can do when they are on private lands – the best thing we can do is be proactive with our due diligence.”
Ellis and Burkart agreed with Tietjen and the road department in its concerns brought up in a previous county commissioners’ meeting from the department and residents already experiencing these issues around the county.
Tietjen explained the pros and cons of the industry they saw when in Carbon County as to how it subsidizes, invests and uses preemptive civil strategies to address potential and current issues – much of which his department spoke on and explained to commissioners in a prior meeting earlier this month.
Ultimately, Tietjen and the Goshen County Road and Bridge department recommended to commissioners they highly consider more detailed contracts with these companies to include fixing any damages to the community, lands and roads.
The Goshen County Clerk of the Court Brandi Correa presented the Commission on Joint Judiciary Legislative Committee meeting to commissioners in which she told board members, “my office joined the Judiciary Legislative Committee meeting in Casper last week and we discovered one thing on the agenda was other departments across the state are also undergoing audits.”
“It occurred to me that with everything our county has seen in recent years, especially within my department, we have not had an audit,” Correa explained. “So, respectfully, I am asking for the county to audit my department.”
To which both Ellis and Burkart agreed and accepted Correa’s request to audit the county clerk of the court’s department.
Goshen County Clerk Cindy Kenyon told Commissioners that she had received the audit request from Correa last week and felt it “prudent and necessary, given recent events in recent years to approve the audit request.”
Correa also requested a credit card for her department, and commissioners agreed to look into the request and allow for her department to have access to a county credit card.
Goshen County Assessor Debbi Surratt presented a reduction order to commissioners regarding an aircraft her department initially were under the impression was a county asset but turns out it is a personal asset. She also advised board members her department would be delivering a “sizable supplemental report at next month’s county commissioners meeting, but not as much as the last supplemental report.”
Earlier this month, Surratt presented commissioners with a $5 million dollar house the county recently discovered to be added to tax rolls, which was reported in the previous Telegram story.
Goshen County Library Board Vice President Dee Ludwig presented commissioners with the library’s monthly report and stated its new goal is to attract readers aged 12 to 18 because “we don’t get a lot of readers in that age group, so we hope to attract more of them with our new donuts program.”
Ludwig also presented the board with its fall programing; the Telegram will have a separate story detailing these.
Finally, the commissioners heard from the Wyoming Homeland Security department’s Deputy Director George Nykum Jr. and Preparedness Section Chief Spencer Pollock as the county seeks to fill the vacancy from Kirchhefer’s retirement earlier this month. The Telegram will have a separate story of that portion of the meeting.
The next regularly scheduled Goshen County Commissioners meeting will be held on Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. in the Goshen County Courthouse, next to the clerk’s office.