MARKLEEVILLE - The Alpine County Sheriff's Department has a $500,000 problem: How to deal with a new influx of state cash.
The extra money was contained in the California Legislature's July budget compromise, which saw rural Republicans voting with Democrats. Assembly Bill 443, authored by Chico Republican Sam Aanestad, was signed into law Aug. 27.
The bill commits $500,000 annually to the state's smallest 37 counties, including El Dorado and Placer counties. That's a big chunk of change in Alpine County, effectively boosting Sheriff Henry "Skip" Veatch's budget by 50 percent, so the department is seeking comments through a public workshop before the Board of Supervisors.
"How the funds are spent is at the discretion of the sheriff," said Assistant Sheriff Robert Levy. "However, we're interested in partnering with the board and the community in identifying agency needs and how to spend that money to best serve Alpine County."
Levy said the department is looking at everything from personnel to facilities, and will probably present multiple options to the Board of Supervisors. The department has 13 sworn officers, including Veatch, three reserve deputies and four administrative personnel.
"Rural law enforcement in California have lagged behind their counterparts in the bigger counties," Levy said. "This was the Legislature's attempt to bring some parity to how law enforcement operates statewide."
The El Dorado County Sheriff's Department is compiling a "wish list" to present to supervisors in upcoming budget hearings. On the South Shore, the money could help add beds and staffing to bring the jail to full capacity, Undersheriff Jeff Neves said.
Currently, the jail holds 126 beds, though it was designed to hold 170 inmates. Adding beds would reduce the need to shuttle inmates between the South Shore and the main jail in Placerville.
"We're trying to get our facilities to a level where they serve their independent communities," Neves said.
The impact of $500,000 won't be as great in Placer County, which has a law enforcement budget more than 100 times as big. Sheriff's Capt. Rick Armstrong said the extra money will help boost coverage in rural areas, including the West Shore.
"If we can add four or five personnel and three or four cars to the patrol force, that's significant," Armstrong said.
What: Alpine County Board of Supervisors
When: Public workshop, 1:30 p.m. today
Where: 99 Water St., Markleeville