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Houston County Commissioners fielded special budget requests from county department leaders last Monday, and one department aimed high in its aspirations.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Donald Valenza and Maj. Bill Rafferty, proposed plans for three new separate buildings and a major increase in its workforce. In addition to a request for two new pods at the Houston County Jail for inmates with mental health issues, Rafferty requests a new sheriff’s office complex and an updated building at the Houston County Farm Center – where the department houses some equipment.

Rafferty estimated the costs of the Farm Center building and the new sheriff’s office complex – proposed to increase space from 15,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet – to be about $10 million. The county is operating on a $44 million budget this year.

“We understand (the county’s) funding issues,” Rafferty said. “We have a sheriff’s department building that was built in 1938. It was too small when we moved in it. We need a new department that will meet our needs.”

The Sheriff’s Office also advocated for a large increase in its workforce – 10 more deputies for the department and another eight for the jail. Rafferty noted the extra corrections deputies would speed up the booking process, which can be lengthy –especially following the issuance of grand jury indictments.

Other notable requests: Other departments made requests, as well –most involving training, computer equipment or employee position tweaks.

The probate office asked to purchase a van that could help with the transportation of a printer that is needed to operate satellite tag offices. The state implemented some changes to the tag process beginning this year, and that increased the size and weight of the printers needed to complete operations.

The probate office also requested to purchase nine electronic poll books, which would give all precincts at least two books. The electronic poll books provide several benefits, including speeding up registration time at the polls and security advantages.

The sanitation department plans to purchase four new automated garbage trucks at a cost of about $305,000 each. It also plans to sell three of the current automated trucks to cover most of that cost.

Committee review: The Community Development Advisory Board meets periodically to determine how to distribute Dothan’s annual Community Development Block Grant funding. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides CDBG money in an effort to improve the living conditions of those living in low- and moderate-income areas.

According to the City of Dothan’s website, members of the board are Twyla Williams, Vanessa Riley Harris, James Snellgrove, Victor E. Laurie, Buford George, Rufus Davis III, Melissa Wilson, Michael Wyant, Kristopher Doss, Ruby Harris, and Anita Dawkins.

Government Oversight, a government notebook compiled by reporter Jeremy Wise, appears each Monday in the Dothan Eagle and at DothanEagle.com. Follow Jeremy Wise on Twitter @DEgovbeat.

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Follow Jeremy Wise on Twitter @DEgovbeat

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