By Bob Balgemann
Boone County Sheriff Dave Ernest said the time for kicking the can down the road had come to an end.
That was done for 20 years and today, “there’s no place farther that we can kick it,” he said. “We’ve continued to cut. There are no more paper clips to cut. We’re strictly [at] personnel.”
Appearing before the county board Wednesday, Dec. 21, he provided a lengthy list of needs in public safety, from more deputies to building improvements.
The sheriff’s office is down seven deputies from 2008, he said.
“That’s a ridiculous number,” he said. “And that’s just where we were in 2008. We should have an additional 12 to 15 officers, according to most studies that have been done out there.”
At the jail, he said $325,000 was spent on overtime last year.
“It has never been properly staffed,” he said of that facility.
Then, he turned to some of the buildings in the public safety complex along Main Street, which he said were “falling apart.”
The jail, built 18 years ago, needs repairs.
The public safety building, built 40 years ago, is shared by sheriff’s deputies, Belvidere police, and the 9-1-1 dispatch center.
“We have pipes busting,” he said of that facility.
The courthouse is “embarrassing for our county,” he said. Six or seven buckets are moved around every time it rains. “Ceilings are falling down during the court process,” he added. “All citizens of Boone County should be embarrassed that this is how we run our operation. Clearly it comes down to finances.”
Despite such problems, the crime rate in the county has declined over the past 10 years. People move here because of the low crime rate. However, he cautioned that “once we lose control we will no longer live in paradise.”
Sheriff Ernest, in his first term, said he wanted people to know about those problem areas.
“They think there are cops everywhere,” he said. “We have four on the road. We have to be honest with the public.”
Concerning the upcoming referendum, he said of voters, “I think they will step up. I wish we didn’t have to do this, but I don’t see any other options at this point.”
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