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Hiring deputies to Beatty a challenge

It just isn't that easy to hire new deputies for Beatty these days. That was what Sheriff Sharon Wehrly has encountered, a major frustration in trying to provide more coverage for the Central Command Area, which is comprised of Beatty and Amargosa.

Wehrly spent much of the Dec. 21 Beatty Town Advisory Board meeting explaining the reasons for the sparse patrol coverage in the area and fielding questions and complaints from residents who feel unsafe. For those who feel unsafe, she said she thought everyone should have a gun.

The sheriff explained that when she took office she was told that she had inherited a $972,000 debt to the county, one that she had to pay back by cutting personnel. She showed the cuts she had made and the people she had juggled. She said she concentrated on reducing administration, not taking patrol positions off the street.

She said that the sheriff's office had been passed over lightly when the budget cuts were made in the past, but when the last round of cuts were made throughout the county, it was hit the hardest.

Another budgetary restriction she is working with is that whenever she has approval to fill a position, she has to delay the hire for 90 days. She also said that the district attorney has told her that she cannot use the half-cent sales tax money to hire a new deputy. The Beatty Town Advisory Board treasurer strongly disagreed with that assertion.

Wehrly said she was "trying to build back, but it's a really, really hard row to hoe."

At present there are two deputies in the area and when they are off shift, deputies from Tonopah or Pahrump have to provide coverage, with part of their shifts eaten up by travel time.

"I want people who live here. That's the way it should be," said the sheriff, but she is having a hard time finding people who want to live in Beatty or Amargosa Valley. She said that at one point she had five candidates, but none of them successfully passed the screening. She now has three candidates, one of whom has passed the background check and will be offered the job. She hopes to be able to increase the number of deputies from three to five. She also said she has already put dispatchers back in Beatty.

Asked about putting deputies on standby when their shifts end, she said that does not allow them to have any kind of life aside from work. If they are on standby they cannot, for instance, have a drink or go out of town.

Some residents said it seemed to not be cost-effective to have the jail in Beatty closed and to have prisoners transported to Pahrump. Deputy Alan Lynn said that he likes it much better not to have much of his shift eaten up with taking care of prisoners, freeing him up to patrol.

Wehrly was asked if there was always a deputy at the Beatty Justice Facility when court was being held. The sheriff said there was, but Teresa Sullivan, wife of Justice of the Peace Gus Sullivan, said that was not true. The sheriff responded that whenever the judge requested a deputy there would be one there.

The sheriff has attended several town board meetings since taking office, but Sullivan said there is still a lack of communication. She said that if the sheriff provided better information, "we might back off a bit."

Another legal matter that was discussed in the meeting was a request from resident Betty Robinson for the creation of a town ordinance "that prevents privately owned drones from flying over private property and schools, and any other property deemed appropriate." She had gathered a number of signatures on a petition to that effect.

Chairman Dick Gardner said that he had called the district attorney's office about the matter and was told that the "other property deemed appropriate" was legally troublesome. Gardner also said that with federal and state regulations in the works, it didn't seem like a good time to be doing something locally.

Board members felt that there were other laws on the books that could be used if people felt they were being peeped at or harassed by drones.

Resident Keith Kearns said that he is a drone owner and enjoys flying his from his house or place of work. He said he typically flies it at a height of 120 or 150 feet.

"It does not have zoom ability," he said, "and from up there you don't see people; you see dots." He said that if he wanted to see something close up, he would have to fly the drone very low, which would involve the danger of having the drone collide with trees and power lines, which would be a stupid way to fly.

"I'm not snooping on anybody. There's enough snooping going on around here anyway," he asserted.

Robinson's requested action died for lack of a motion, but Gardner told her she should hang on to her list of names in case more people felt that way in the future.

Gerling reported that the town's list of road work requests was well received by the county and was acknowledged in a timely manner.

Beatty Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Harmon said that his department's coverage area was recently extended 10 miles farther south to help provide more coverage in Amargosa Valley. He said that the Amargosa Volunteer Fire Department was down to three members.

The board approved up to $1,500 to pay for EMS and fire department online education training and videos. Beatty Volunteer Ambulance Service Coordinator Allison Henderson said she didn't think the training should be paid for for those who want to take the courses but do not run with the service. Board members said it would be up to Harmon and Henderson to decide who should take the courses, but there was some sentiment that it would be a benefit for anyone to have the training.

The board approved $925 to pay half the cost of R19 insulation for the new addition on the Beatty Museum. The work has already been completed.

Board member Randy Reed noted that the Senior Center is looking for a new driver for its van.

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