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Broadwater County Sheriff addresses budget cutbacks

Broadwater County Sheriff Wynn Meehan says his department is making some budget cutbacks, but his deputies are still responding to all calls they receive.

Meehan posted on the Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page on Friday, to clarify what he called “rumors that are making their way around our community” regarding the budget situation.

He said, earlier this year, his command staff realized that their planned budget was out of balance by thousands of dollars. They responded by cutting 30 percent from the department’s operations budget, in order to bring expenditures in line with revenue.

“We had to either cut positions, which I didn’t want to do, or I had to cut operations,” Meehan said.

Meehan said he had heard from some residents, especially in the northern part of Broadwater County, who had been told deputies weren’t responding to calls because they were trying to save fuel. He said that’s not the case, but that the department has cut back on some active patrols during times when the roads are less busy.

“We’re tight on the budget, but we’re still responding to the calls,” he said. “It’s just what we’re going to do proactively that we’ve done in the past, we’re going to have to rein it in a little bit, until we kind of figure out how our budget cycle’s going to work out.”

Meehan said he investigated the cases where residents said they hadn’t seen a response from the sheriff’s office. In most of those cases, he said deputies had responded, but they never made contact with the person who filed the complaint.

The Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office normally operates at around a $2 million budget. Meehan said about half of that comes from county taxes, state payments and a contract to provide services for the city of Townsend, while the rest are revenues raised by the office itself. He said he’s concerned about how much of the budget comes from fees for housing inmates from other jurisdictions in the Broadwater County jail.

“We cannot sustain our public safety based upon what I call ‘soft money,’” he said. “There’s no guarantee that somebody’s going to be in jail, and there’s no guarantee that, for the people that are in jail, they’re going to be paying us to house them.”

He said he wants to find a more sustainable funding source for the department going forward. He and his administrators are working with a consultant from Helena to come up with more solutions for the budget.

In the meantime, Meehan said he wants to reassure Broadwater County residents that they are still investigating every call they receive.

“We’re still coming,” he said. “When you’re in need, we’re still going to be there.”

Meehan said the sheriff’s office has already responded to more than 19,000 calls this year – more than double the number of calls they had when he became sheriff in 2015.

-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News

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