Gulf County sheriff’s deputies are running on empty. Each worked more than 24 hours overtime during Hurricane Dennis, but they’ve yet to be paid.
County Commissioners in Port St. Joe say there’s not enough money in the emergency budget, when they just got back from a fully paid for convention in Honolulu, Hawaii.
It may sound ironic to some that Gulf County had enough money to send commissioners and staff members to Hawaii last week, but did not have enough money in the budget to pay for law enforcement.
Still, county officials say the two issues are funded differently and they will find the money to pay sheriff’s deputies.
The lawmen are no strangers to having to work overtime. This year alone flooding has created hundreds of hours of extra work. During the floods in April in Wewahitchka the county was able to pay deputies from a contingency fund, but when Hurricane Dennis came around the fund was high and dry.
Sheriff Dalton Upchurch was concerned.
“All the other county employees got paid, but the plain and simple fact is that we have zero money in our budget for overtime.”
Sheriff Upchurch says there are other problems, too. The jail has no air conditioning and is in disrepair.
The Hawaii trip for at least three commissioners and three staff members cost the county about $10,000. County Manager Don Butler said the Sheriff’s Office has been under funded for years.
“In their defense I can see where they can’t plan for three natural disasters in six months time. They are under funded. All you have to do is look around.
FEMA will more than likely pay the overtime for the deputies, but Sheriff Upchurch says another storm could hit before they ever see the $25,000 in back overtime pay.
And, the Sheriff says he plans to ask for more money to repair and run the county jail during the Gulf County Commission’s budget meeting this Thursday.