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More Floyd County departments, groups seek funding increases

  • The new Mill Pond Pedestrian Bridge that passes over the Shell Rock River is now open in Nora Springs. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • The new Mill Pond Pedestrian Bridge that passes over the Shell Rock River is now open in Nora Springs. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra

  • The new Mill Pond Pedestrian Bridge is lit up at evening. Photo by Carrie Poulter

  • A 1920s early plank bridge that was attempted in Nora Springs to cross the Shell Rock River. Photo submitted by Nora Springs Historical Society

By Bob Steenson, 

The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office is again this year seeking funding for in-car video recorders and mobile laptops, saying the county is one of the few remaining law enforcement agencies in the country without such equipment.

The supervisors also discussed the possibility of adding a full-time IT (information technology) person to manage the county’s many network, computer, software, phone and other technical systems, and heard budget requests from other groups that receive county funding.

County departments are making budget presentations to the Board of Supervisors as the board works on the fiscal year 2019-20 budget that will begin July 1. No budget decisions have been made yet.

Sheriff Jeff Crooks made his department’s primary budget presentation last week, noting that scheduled and anticipated pay increases and additional insurance costs together would increase department costs by more than $100,000 next fiscal year.

Deputy Travis Bartz made the presentation for the electronic gear Monday morning at the supervisors’ workshop meeting, seeking about $93,500 additional funding in the Sheriff’s Office budget for the purchases.

Deputies currently have body cameras, but the in-car video recorders add an extra layer of verification, he said.

The report he gave to the supervisors said the additional cameras are likely to improve accountability, reduce complaints of misconduct, save money in court costs, increase ability to collect evidence for trial, save time and money from frivolous lawsuits and increase office transparency, among other benefits.

The Sheriff’s Office requested $134,000 for cameras and mobile data terminals last year, but the supervisors didn’t add that money to the department’s budget.

Bartz said there was enough money left over in the Sheriff’s Office budget to purchase six in-car cameras, and now it is requesting funding to purchase seven more in-car cameras so each deputy’s car and the jail car will have a camera.

The in-car cameras can record traffic violations or traffic stops and other officer responses and interactions.

The six cameras the Sheriff’s Office purchased “have already proven their use,” Bartz said.

“We’ve had some chases. … We’ve had some stops, OWIs, different things that have all been in those videos,” he said.

“We’ve got six of them. We’re looking for seven more. I can’t explain how much of a necessity these camera are and how much use they are,” Bartz said, adding that 93 percent of the law enforcement agencies in the country have them.

The cost for the seven additional in-car cameras, accessories and installation would be about $37,025.

Bartz also presented the Sheriff’s Office’s request for funding for mobile data terminals — essentially rugged laptop computers for the deputy’s cars.

The plan would be to outfit all 10 deputy’s vehicles with the mounting hardware for the terminals and to purchase 5 laptops that the deputies would check out and plug into their vehicles when they are on duty.

“About 50 percent of what we do is paperwork,” Bartz said.

Currently that paperwork is done on computers in the office. With mobile computers, much of that paperwork could be done while in the field, and could be done more easily because a scanner could scan a license and registration and enter all that information automatically, time and location can be entered automatically by GPS, then a report can be printed out at the scene.

There would also be the advantage of keeping the deputies out in the field instead of in the office, so they would be more visible and more accessible to respond when needed.

“I can park at the intersection at Floyd,” Bartz said, as an example.

“I can be sitting there logging in on something, researching on something, typing something, finishing an accident report, working rather than sitting up here inside the building with the car in the parking lot,” he said.

“Just seeing my car visible has an impact on people. I may not be looking for speeders, but just seeing my car is going into have an impact.”

The mobile terminals would also increase the deputies’ safety and efficiency by giving them quicker access to information and more details about call history.

The price for five laptops and mounting hardware for 10 squad cars, plus accessories and installation, would be $56,479, Bartz said.

Also Monday, Floyd County Auditor Gloria Carr and Environmental Health Administrator Jeff Sherman presented the case for hiring a full-time IT manager, based on current and projected IT needs of each county department.

The position is so important, Carr said, that she asked the supervisors to consider amending the current budget so a person could be hired yet this fiscal year.

Having an IT manager on staff while construction of the new law enforcement center is being planned could be beneficial, she said, because of the technology that project will include.

She and Sherman proposed a starting salary of about $54,000 a year, or about $25,000 including benefits if that person worked for four months in the current fiscal year.

Supervisor Linda Tjaden said the IT challenges have been one of her priorities since she joined the board last year, with cybersecurity concerns and especially with the new law enforcement center project and updates at the courthouse.

“I really feel we need to take a hard look at this,” Tjaden said about the IT manager proposal.

Also Monday, the board:

  • Heard a request from the Floyd County Library Association, representing five county libraries, asking a 2 percent increase in funding to the $91,955 received in the current fiscal year.
  • Heard a request from Floyd County Fair Board for a 20 percent increase from the $10,000 received in the current year, to $12,000. One of the projects the fair board is considering is the installation of permanent restroom and shower facilities.
  • Held interviews with three companies that were selected as finalists for the position of construction manager for the law enforcement center and courthouse update project. A decision on which will be chosen may be made at the regular supervisors meeting today (Tuesday).