(KCPW News) Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder is frustrated by the county's budget cutting process. He wants the county council and the mayor's office to give him a straight dollar amount he can use to budget for his department, not some kind of vague target.
"Right now they want to play a little bit of a game, and express to the public, ‘Look, this is about percentages and what the contra line is and all this.' And that's crap," Winder said. "You tell us what we've got to work with so we can budget; we've got an operation to run here. And as of yet, they haven't been willing to do that."
Winder believes there's no room in his budget to take further cuts if he is to safely operate the existing Adult Detention Center and re-open the shuttered Oxbow Jail, while county officials maintain he can. Winder said they don't want to be responsible for making the politically unpopular move of saying "No" to re-opening Oxbow. Meanwhile, overcrowding remains a serious problem at the main county jail. Winder said it puts his staff in the awkward position of determining who is safe to release early to make room for new arrivals. Recently, the jail released more than 90 inmates in one weekend, including some felons.
If Oxbow re-opens, it may not be the treatment facility county officials had originally planned on due the budget cuts. Winder is worried it might only get used as a holding facility.
"The desire is when they walk out of the facility, some percentage of that group will quit coming back. That's what the Oxbow model has been built on. And the council and the mayor knew this full well; that's why they've supported it," Winder said. "They've always said they don't just want a holding facility, well it's not. But now, when push comes to shove and we say, ‘Let us do it.' Well, turn it into a holding facility, because we won't give you the staff to run it the way we wanted it run in the first place."
The Sheriff's Department was held harmless when county leaders cut five percent from the 2009 budget. But under the new budget adjustment, the department will have to reduce its budget by 5 percent and implement a hiring freeze.