County sees sheriff's preliminary budget

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The 2005 budget for the Routt County Sheriff's Office could be about 7 percent higher than this year's budget because of the likely addition of Taser stun guns, a full-time court security deputy and a part-time cook.

That brings the estimated budget for the department to about $1.6 million. County commissioners will approve a final budget in November.

As much as 80 percent of the roughly $15,000 cost of Taser stun guns and shock sticks could be covered by grant funds, Undersheriff Dan Taylor told Routt County commissioners Tuesday.

The department does not plan to buy the stun guns until two notable court cases involving the use of Tasers are resolved, which could happen this spring or summer, Taylor said.

Taser stun guns shoot two barbs up to 21 feet that stick in a person's clothing or skin and deliver a five-second shock that makes the person immobile. Moffat and Grand counties, as well as the Steamboat Springs Police Department, have the stun guns.

Currently, the sheriff's department can choose between spraying a suspect with pepper spray or hitting him or her with an expandable baton, Taylor said.

The armed deputy position at the courthouse that county commissioners tentatively approved Tuesday would replace two part-time security screeners that supervise the entrance to the court.

The part-time screeners are not armed and are trained to stay out of any security situations that may start in the courtrooms, Sheriff John Warner said.

The new full-time deputy would work 40 hours a week, with the remaining 10 hours of coverage at the courthouse to be made up by other sheriff's department employees.

It would cost the county about $25,000 more than the part-time screeners, but would provide "a lot of benefits," Taylor said.

For the extra funding, the position would bring the court security to a "much more comfortable" level, Taylor said.

There have been only minor security incidents at the courthouse, Taylor said, but he said it's only a matter of time before something more serious happens.

Routt County's level of security is between that provided in Grand and Moffat counties, Warner said. In Grand County, two armed deputies watch over the courtrooms, and in Moffat County, there is no full-time security or screening.

Dan Strnad, finance director for the county, asked whether an armed security deputy would make a difference to a person who wanted to cause serious harm.

Court Administrator Evan Herman responded that some of the biggest safety concerns did not come from people charged with serious crimes, but from domestic cases, such as when a couple is going through a divorce. An armed deputy could make a big difference in such a situation, he said.

The part-time cook will assist the full-time cook, who now has to prepare meals for weekends and holidays in advance so she avoids working overtime, Taylor said.

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