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Commissioners OK new positions for sheriff, jail

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s not the number of new officers that Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales was asking for, but commissioners have signed off on 10 more sheriff deputy positions.

“I know that he needs probably 60, but he understands that at this time we can only provide 10 with the vehicles and all of the equipment they need,” County Manager Julie Morgas Baca said during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting.

Commissioners also authorized nine new employees for the Metropolitan Detention Center and another one in the Business Improvement and Performance Office, and they voted to reclassify 76 temporary positions at MDC to permanent, full-time positions. Funding for the new positions in the sheriff’s office and at MDC is coming from the gross receipts tax increase approved by commissioners earlier this year. There was already money in the budget for the new business improvement office position, which will cost about $86,000 a year, and commissioners were told the reclassification of MDC employees doesn’t impact the budget.

The votes on the new sheriff’s deputies and finance position were unanimous, but Commissioner Wayne Johnson voted against the two MDC measures.

The addition of 10 new sheriff’s deputies will bring the number of sworn positions in that office to 314.

The county estimates that the new deputy positions will cost close to $1.3 million this fiscal year and nearly $877,000 each fiscal year thereafter.

Commissioners were told the new positions would make the sheriff’s office more responsive to emergency calls.

“We’ll look at all the calls for service and figure out strategically where (the new officers) need to be placed,” Gonzales told commissioners.

The new positions at MDC consist of six security service aides, two inmate discipline coordinators and one quality compliance supervisors. Two other previously frozen positions are being reclassified. The cost for the current fiscal year is estimated at a little more than $426,000, and about $851,600 each fiscal year thereafter.

Morgas Baca said the positions were recommended in an MDC staffing study. She said it would also cut down on overtime at the jail.

She also urged commissioners to reclassify term positions to permanent full time positions, noting that it’s hard to recruit corrections officers when they know they won’t be permanent employees.

“I have serious concerns about whether I’m being smoked again,” Johnson said, emphasizing that the number of inmates at MDC has dropped from about 3,000 to about 1,100, resulting in the closure of two pods. He said the last time commissioners were asked to approve new officer positions, they were told overtime would go down, which didn’t happened.

New MDC Chief Greg Rees said the promise that overtime would go down wasn’t made by him, and he said MDC remains shorthanded.

While Johnson voted against the MDC measures, Commission Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley and Commissioners Steven Michael Quezada, Maggie Hart Stebbins and Lonnie Talbert voted for them.