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Sheriff's budget back on track

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Commissioners, Sheriff's Office reach compromise

A budget workshop last week between the Mason County Commission and Mason County Sheriffs Office began with fire but ended with compromise.

The Nov. 24 workshop was one of the only times the two sides have sat down and discussed the Sheriffs Office proposed 2016 budget.

The day after the meeting, Mason County Undersheriff Jim Barrett said the discussion that took place should have been had months ago.

"The thing is that (the) conversation we had yesterday was the conversation (that) should have happened in September and October," he said. "It would have avoided a lot of that stuff that was put out there."

Barrett referenced multiple stories appeared in the Journal and other Mason County news outlets about the unfolding saga over an additional $4.3 million the sheriff is asking the county for in his 2016 budget. The two sides have struggled, whether it is out of pride or scheduling conflicts, to reach across the table and compromise over the increases during the 2016 budget process.

The topic of scheduling was discussed at the beginning of the budget workshop when Commissioner Randy

Neatherlin spoke frankly to Sheriff Casey Salisbury and his advisers regarding the events of the past three months, referencing first a budget workshop scheduled for Nov. 9, which was canceled after the Sheriffs Office did not turn in the correct documents on time.

"Let's just get this on the table," Neatherlin said. "First of all, it was not just your meeting, it was the county's meeting to do a budget workshop that we had done with every single other department. Everyone else did it the way it was supposed to be done. You didn't give us any of it."

Sheriff Salisbury instead presented a two-hour slideshow presentation at the Nov. 9 meeting, but has maintained that the slideshow was sufficient in explaining his office's needs.

"You are elected to do a job and we are elected to do a job," Neatherlin said. "And we asked for this to be done with no malice or ill feelings."

Neatherlin said no other department handled the budget workshop process the way the Sheriffs Office did. When the Nov. 9 workshop was rescheduled for later in the month, only the commissioners attended, while Salisbury and his command staff attended the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs conference in Chelan.

"We could have had the meeting the first time; it was never set up for a 2 1/2-hour presentation," Neathlerin said.

After airing their grievances, the two sides got to work on what exactly the Sheriffs Office will receive in additional funding in 2016, with the Commission bending to some of the Sheriffs Office's requests.

"We never expect to get everything that we ask for," Salisbury said.

The Sheriffs Office turned in a preliminary budget in August that outlined the need for a $17.6 million budget, with major increases in care and custody of prisoners, contracts for employees and new patrol cars.

After the discussion on Nov. 24, it looks like the Sheriffs Office will receive $750,000 for new patrol cars, $100,000 for new radios, almost

$700,000 for outsourcing prisoners and creating a full-time boat patrol deputy position.

One thing the Commission will not budge on it seems is the sheriffs request for a $30,000-a-year raise.

Last Wednesday, Salisbury told the Journal in an interview that he was pleased with the progress that has been made.

"The things that we asked for weren't out of line, they were costs that were necessary to do what needs to be done," he said. "We are very thankful for what they did." Barrett agreed. "Yesterday's meeting is how the government is supposed to work for people," he said.

During the meeting, Commissioner Terri Jeffreys said she wants to continue to work on communication between the Commission and the Sheriffs Office.

"I want us to try to work together by using the format and continuing these discussions," she said. "We can meet you in most of your needs, but we can't always do it in a confrontational way. It is my hope that we can work here and move forward."

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Original Publication Date: December 3, 2015

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