Council needs to eye budget efficiencies
Thursday, May 01, 2014 12:00 AM
While Christmas is slightly less than eight months away, ’tis the season when county councils are having to cobble together their budgets and listen to department managers as they present their wish lists. Of course we know the department heads are not bright-eyed children and the members of the councils are not department store Santas. In general, at least we hope, department heads are responsible and conscientious people doing a good job while councils are equally responsible and conscientious people who must balance being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money while doing what is overall best for the taxpayers, which sometimes means fulfilling those wish lists.
On Tuesday, Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis presented his wish list to council. In the scheme of things -- the sheriff’s office budget tops out at nearly $5.5 million -- Davis’ request is rather minimal. He is requesting about $70,000 to fund two positions. One would be devoted to crime scene investigations and serve as an evidence technician. The other would join an existing animal control officer and each would serve in that capacity, with additional duties handling litter.
Davis told council the officer currently serving as crime scene investigator and evidence technician also has all the sheriff’s office information technology issues, which apparently takes up about 95 percent of his time. The sheriff said that is because there is so much computer equipment in deputies’ cars, in dispatch and throughout his office.
We are not advocating council give either or both positions a yay or nay vote. However, we do hope council and the county manager will explore whether this is an area where efficiencies could be -- well, more efficient. Information technology -- IT as it is commonly called -- is a full-time position. And then some. When dealing with a fairly sizable business or government entity, either one or a team of people is employed strictly to handle all things IT-related or a third party is contracted to handle the work full-time. It comes as no surprise the current officer has little to no time to handle the equally important tasks related to crime scenes and evidence. While admirable to try to streamline in an era when people often have to wear several hats, this probably was not the best use of the one human resource. It warrants addressing, but again we would urge the county to step back and examine whether an overall county IT person or team could serve the county and the sheriff’s office, which would allow the sheriff the opportunity to apply his human resources to the business of law enforcement efforts and not computer hardware and software.
Regarding the other position Davis is seeking, we agree with council chairman Mark Allison’s observation that there is a lot -- and we mean a lot -- of litter in Greenwood County. Drive along any of our county roads or highways and look to the shoulders and along the gutters. In no time, you will see enough litter to fill a dumpster. You might also see signs that indicate a civic club, church or business has adopted that stretch of road or highway. Every few months, these dedicated people don vests and gloves and pick up litter. Their vast collections sit roadside in orange trash bags that will be picked up by cleanup crews and taken to the landfills. It is a vicious cycle and one has to wonder if some of the people littering don’t already figure there’s no harm in tossing their trash along the roadways because they know someone else will eventually clean up after them.
The sad thing is, the volume of trash is so great that it is obvious hardly anyone is ever caught and then fined heavily for littering. We’ve all seen the highway signs that warn litterers of penalties that will affect their bank accounts. The problem is, they have to be caught. Will one more officer assigned to litter do the trick? Probably not. Unless his job is to pick up the litter. And in that case, not even two officers will be able to keep pace with the lazy cusses who create the mess to begin with.
We know there is a substantial animal control problem throughout the county, one that very well might justify the additional position Davis seeks. The Humane Society of Greenwood would probably back up the need. But in addressing the litter issue, it’s too bad the sheriff cannot round up a good many of the people serving time in the detention center and put them on litter patrol. Think about it. The inmates would get fresh air and exercise, plus they would be doing a great service by keeping county roads and highways cleaner. Now that would be a more efficient use of resources.