November 26, 2021

County approves grant to fund another deputy

With the goal of alleviating the overtime expense for his limited staff, Union County Board of Supervisors Monday approved accepting a $125,000 COPS grant.

Union County Sheriff Mark Shepherd told the supervisors Rep. Cindy Axne informed his department of the federally funded grant. The department will receive the funds over three years with the intent to pay for a deputy position. The county will be responsible for the position in the fourth year and beyond, with the agreement the position will be guaranteed for the fourth year.

“We’re short,” Shepherd said about his staff, which, including him, is a total of six. That comment is in comparison to the neighboring counties considering Union County has a larger population.

Despite the limited staff, Shepherd was proud of the work. He said, in late October his department had four times the arrests in 2021 than all of last year. Shepherd made reference to his staff recently finding a Missouri man in a Creston motel wanted for murder and another murder suspect was found after a body was discovered this summer in Adair County.

“It’s no crime rate increase. We’re just more diligent,” he said about the results.

Shepherd intends to use the grant funds for a deputy who will first work on investigations and fill in patrol hours when needed.

But the more productive operation is showing issues in other ways. Because of the Union County Jail’s limitations, Shepherd said jailed arrests are being sent to the surrounding counties out of necessity.

“We have jail issues, that haven’t been addressed,” he said.

The challenge with the grant money is finding applicants for a deputy positon.

“We are not getting applicants,” Shepherd said. A recent, new deputy hire was one of three applicants.

“We are competing with other counties with the same benefit packages,” he said as other area law-enforcement agencies who also look for help.

Shepherd said his last new deputy started at $25.99 an hour.

“I don’t want to poach from Creston police,” he said.

Another deputy would ease up overtime expenses from other deputies.

Shepherd said the addition of a deputy would also require the purchase of another patrol vehicle, which he estimated at $35,000 plus accessory costs. He said it is also difficult to find patrol vehicles because of the production limitations with car manufacturers.

Shepherd said Union County was one of only two law enforcement agencies in Iowa’s Third Congressional District to receive the grant. Norwalk Police Department was the other.




John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.