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Sheriff gets OK to spend sales tax increase money

The Nye County Sheriff’s Department got a little more beefed up Tuesday, after county commissioners approved most of Sheriff Tony DeMeo’s plan to spend his half of the half-cent sales tax increase that took effect April 1.

The increase goes equally to fund the sheriff’s department and county fire services. It was passed narrowly by voters in 2006 but wasn’t passed by the county commission until last year, increasing the sales tax in Nye County from 7.1 percent to 7.6 percent.

DeMeo estimates the sheriff’s department will receive $100,000 per month from the additional money.

The sheriff received an early Christmas present. He can hire two detention deputies, two patrol deputies, two detention technicians and two field service agents in the southern command based out of Pahrump. The field service agents will not be sworn officers.

His request for equipment was granted except he will only be able to buy three vehicles instead of the nine he requested.

The personnel positions in Pahrump will cost an estimated $452,902 for the 2014-15 fiscal year that began July 1. Pahrump would receive $991,719 of the budget if his entire plan was approved since it represents 82.6 percent of the county population.

Besides the patrol cars, the sheriff will get the rest of his $398,260 order for equipment in Pahrump. He wants four pack sets at $5,065 apiece, which contain mobile radios and other equipment for each deputy; four vests, four hand guns, two shotguns, two patrol rifles and four uniform allowances which run $1,250 apiece. The sheriff also wants $43,000 to upgrade a supervisory position.

The north area command, based in Tonopah, would receive $52,665 in equipment, based on their 6.47 percent of the county population.

Nye County District Attorney Brian Kunzi said he couldn’t allocate $14,020 in the north county or $5,950 in Beatty for overtime, based on the county ordinance. Another $51,688 is allocated for search and rescue equipment and training.

“The ordinance is very clear, it has to be for the cost of hiring new personnel and equipping new personnel or equipping new facilities,” Kunzi said. He added, “we’re only talking about two patrol cars. I think there’s an issue with purchasing three new vehicles.”

“You can get new cars if you’re hiring new employees but just to replace cars does not fit with the compliance of the ordinance,” he said.

DeMeo said the only new weapons ordered would be for the new deputies. He said most of the items requested were compiled in 2007 when it was unclear what the funds could be used for.

The two field service agents working out of Pahrump will be a new job description, they won’t be sworn officers. The budget allocates $85,307 for those two agents.

“They can collect the evidence, they can do everything on scene, then we could save the manpower to do domestics and all other priority calls,” DeMeo said. “It would be a test program per se, and in the future commissioners could look at this as having manpower that could take care of 85 percent of the calls we do get and have deputies do active patrol.”

The DA said the sheriff’s office will need two new cars to support two new deputies.

“I don’t want anybody to think we were just concerned with the south. The north definitely has its needs,” Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said.

After getting approval for his list, DeMeo indicated there may be money left over to hire another deputy. Kunzi said another deputy could be hired in the north and allocated in different areas.

DeMeo said he has taken over for Lt. Frank Jarvis, head of the central command in Beatty, who is not working due to the Family Medical Leave Act and will be retiring soon.

But DeMeo said it doesn’t make sense to send a Pahrump deputy up to Tonopah, which is a three-hour trip that will cost a lot of overtime.

After the vote, DeMeo was asked if this helps to alleviate the manpower shortage in the sheriff’s department.

“We’re at half the manpower that we need but at least there’s more deputies on the street,” DeMeo told the Pahrump Valley Times.

Under commissioner’s comments earlier in the meeting, County Commissioner Butch Borasky inquired if it was worthwhile to pay 13 deputies working at the Tonopah jail.

“Has anyone looked at what it would cost to close that jail? Would it save us anything and would the cost of transporting the prisoners back and forth offset any savings?” Borasky asked.

Schinhofen said it wouldn’t be appropriate to take public comment from the sheriff under commissioner’s comments. He told Assistant County Manager Joni Eastley, sitting in the place of County Manager Pam Webster, to present in writing to the commission her analysis on closing the Tonopah jail she compiled in 2013.

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