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Commission spurns sheriff's request

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$38K in contingency money denied

By Lou Elliott Jones

The tension that has been building between the Levy County Commission and the Sheriff's Office over spending and budgets became an open matter of record at the commissions Tuesday meeting when the sheriff's request for $38,000 in contingency money was denied. Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston made the motion to give the sheriff some of the money the commission held back from this year's budget to cover any last-minute inmate medical bills. But the motion died for lack of a second. The sheriff did not make an appearance to present the request. Instead, Maj, Evan Sullivan and Maj. Mike Sheffield, Smith's No. 2. men, made the case for the money. Sullivan said the office has "some outstanding bills," while Sheffield said he had only $7,000 "in the hole" in the inmate medical care fund and is expecting to receive an additional $26,000 in bills. The request comes on the heels of the sheriff announcing the purchase of six vehicles — five SUVs, one pickup and one car — for his department, less than a year after he purchased 15 patrol vehicles for his office. The vehicle purchases  along with a week of paid vacation and a 3 percent pay increase for his department in May, while refusing to make deep cuts in his budget proposal have caused some consternation and anger among commissioners. Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland questioned why the money was labeled "contingency funds" when they were in the budget every year. "Why not just put it in a line item," he asked. "In the past, it was used for no other reason than it was available," Commissioner Lilly Rooks of Rosewood said.  "It's too early to be asking," Rooks added. "If there's money in your budget for vehicles, then maybe there's money for the contingency," Commissioner Marsha Drew of Yankeetown said. Drew, who let her anger show, said she would have more to say on the matter of the sheriff's budget in a workshop later in the afternoon. Commission Chair Nancy Bell of Chiefland echoed a point made earlier by Drew, "This money should only be used for an emergency." After the motion failed, Johnson said, "You're not in an insolvent situation."