The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 5, 2014

Special election could help Major Co. sheriff

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Major County Sheriff Steve Randolph has a few problems.

His jail is approaching its first century, there’s no money to replace donated patrol vehicles and on weekends, he can only spare one person to answer emergency calls and oversee the jail’s inmate population.

“One of the reasons why we’re doing this is I have been struggling, trying to keep money in,” he said.

According to a release from Major County Emergency Management, the sheriff’s office relies on an annual budget of about $300,000.

A half-penny sales tax scheduled to be voted on soon will raise at least an estimated $25,000 per month for maintenance, capital spending and operational funds. Even now, Randolph has to dip into his department’s cash funds to pay salaries of his employees.

The special election is Tuesday, Jan. 14.

With the extra money, Randolph plans to give his workers raises and hire a dispatcher and another deputy. The deputy will be a school resource officer spending all of his or her time at each of the three schools in the county.

The dispatchers, he said, have a rough time. Because he has so few, there is only one on duty at a time during the weekend shifts. Along with handling emergency calls and dispatch duties, they also serve as jailers.

Randolph said his dispatchers start out earning $1,750 per month.

“That’s hard when you have a family of four or five,” he said.

The dispatchers soon will begin learning the enhanced-911 system, said Major County Emergency Manager Tresa Lackey.

“There's going to be a lot of training that’s coming up with our dispatchers and their Garfield County partners,” she said.

Lackey said the sheriff’s office has been losing employees to better-paying counties and industries. The passage of a sales tax hopes to change that.

“It will, first and foremost, improve the law enforcement of our county,” Lackey said.

The Major County Jail was built almost nine decades ago and is considered in need of renovation.

“My jail was built in 1928. We’re still doing updates on it and up-keeps, which is costing quite a bit,” Randolph said. “I’m not overcrowded. I haven’t had that problem for the last several months. I do get inmates from Garfield County, and that’s how I make a little money.”

He hopes to add another cell or two and renovate the fourth floor of his building, which isn’t being used. Building a new jail is not on the table, but Randolph said that any excess money from the sales tax could be used to kickstart one if needed.

His next vehicle purchase will be a major expense, too.

“The last several years I’ve had a very generous man who lives in Ringwood who has donated vehicles to us,” Randolph said.

The sheriff will tour his county this week, speaking to groups about what the half-penny sales tax would mean for his department. There is no expiration date on the tax.