Lewis County Commissioners Sign Off on Sheriff Snaza’s Request for New Deputies, Technician Position

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After lambasting Lewis County Commissioner Lindsey Pollock last week for questions regarding his budget request, Sheriff Rob Snaza will get two deputies and a records technician funded in the 2022 budget.

The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously during a Monday morning meeting to move forward with a portion of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s request for an additional $562,823 in funding, which will pay for the positions and help the department implement body and vehicle cameras.

Pollock, who brought the motion forward for a vote a full day before discussion was expected to resume on the matter, appeared to fully back Snaza’s budget request. The only adjustment made was regarding the records tech position, which will be funded and operated through the Human Resources Risk Management department, alongside other public disclosure processes. The position, Pollock said, will fully benefit the sheriff’s office.

Pollock said it was important at a minimum to fund the two new patrol deputies.

“I think perhaps the sheriff was not prepared for a different line of budget discussions as he had in the past,” she said.

The two electeds originally clashed last week during a discussion about Snaza’s budget increase request.

Pollock had said she was simply asking for more information from Snaza’s office and that recommendations to find additional funds was a good-faith attempt to shore up additional revenue. Meanwhile, Snaza accused the commissioner of micromanaging and of singling out his department.

For now, it appears the impasse is over.

Pollock said funding the tech position from another department — an effort to remove the sheriff’s office from any perception of bias when disclosing body camera footage to the public or prosecutor’s office — is ultimately a “net benefit to the sheriff’s office.”

The sheriff’s office will receive those public records management services and benefits without having to implement their own position and allocate a portion of their budget to it. There’s currently no “gold standard” on what department is best to house this type of position, Pollock had previously said.

Snaza also gets his two deputy positions funded, which he characterized as a good start to bringing staffing levels back on par with the population. The two deputy patrol positions, he expects, will cover central and east county communities.

"I'm excited for the opportunity and I'm excited we're going to get two deputies, which means we're going to provide coverage that's (previously) been challenging at best," Snaza told The Chronicle this week.

When he first joined the department, Snaza said it had about seven deputies patrolling the county at any time. That number is now down to just five on a good day — if nobody’s taking vacation or is sick.

Only one of those deputies patrols the east county, he said. It’s an area that sees anywhere from a few to more than a half-dozen calls a day, depending on the season, so the two new deputy positions will help in those efforts.

“This is going to help us out. I'm not going to say it's going to be the end-all of addressing challenges, but it's going to help address some problems,” Snaza said.

Funding the positions will also help to address staffing strains during search and rescue operations, which traditionally have anywhere between two or three deputies helping with efforts, Snaza said.

"Because of the influx in outdoor recreation, that has increased too over the last couple years," he said.

Snaza said on Monday that there were still too many what-ifs surrounding the records tech position for him to be completely reassured it will be a net gain for his department by housing it elsewhere.

The process of redacting material and submitting evidence to the prosecutor’s office, for example, were some concerns he had.

Overall, Snaza said, he’s just not sure how much extra work that will come from his department.

County administrators appear to be on the same page with Snaza around needing to chisel out the details. County Manager Erik Martin said, following the board’s vote, that they planned on discussing how the new position would be implemented into the records department department.

Prior to this position being moved over to human resources, the department had already put in requests for two requests this budget cycle for a records manager and HR/risk assistant position.

Lewis County commissioners are expected to pass the county’s finalized 2022 budget shortly after a pair of hearings scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6.

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