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Fredericksburg City Beat

This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.

Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or pgould@freelancestar.com. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or rsidersky@freelancestar.com.

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Howe to make courts pitch tomorrow

Councilman Fred Howe III has an item on tomorrow’s council agenda titled “Court Security Interim Phase I & Phase II Study/Analysis.”

Howe and Sheriff Paul Higgs have been working together for the past two months to develop what they say is a list of things the city could do now–as its deliberations over building a new courthouse are ongoing–to make the courts safer.

The document Howe is presenting to council members with this agenda item is here. It is based on recommendations made by the U.S. Marshal’s service in a 2006 report on security in the city’s three courts. That document is confidential for security reasons, and council members reviewed it in closed session last year.

Howe and Higgs are proposing more than $1 million in improvements–the final total is not known because many items, like lining judges’ benches with steel and making other building adjustments haven’t been priced out yet.

These include both ongoing expenses like hiring sheriff’s deputies and raising existing deputies’ pay, and capital expenses like buying surveillance cameras and installing card-based entry devices on courthouse doors.

The No. 1 priority Higgs identified in the document is establishing pay parity between sheriff’s deputies and city police officers. That is estimated to cost $114,807 for the current staff level.

Higgs said today that at this point, he isn’t losing deputies because of pay levels, but he fears that as the economy improves and more employment options become available, that could change.

Higgs emphasized that implementing these items could make the current courts safer, but, “The only way you’re going to make it safe is with a new complex.”

It’s important to remember that this proposal comes a month before the city manager is to release his budget proposal for next year. Higgs said none of the items in this document were part of the budget request he submitted for next year, because he didn’t start working on this until after the budget deadline for departments had passed. Howe said he’d like the council to run with this and place this spending into next year’s budget.

You’ll also see a “Phase 2″ level of spending in here, most of which is not priced out. Howe said that if, after the current request for proposals process runs its course, the council decides not to move forward with building a new courts facility, then the city should look at making a second phase of security improvements to its existing courts facilities.

“We can do some minor things to at least support the courts for the next two to three years while we go through whatever process the taxpayers decide we should go through,” Higgs said. “As soon as the issue was identified, it was incumbent upon us to solve as many of those problems as we humanly possibly could have solved.”

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Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/citybeat/2011/02/07/howe-to-make-courts-pitch-tomorrow/

  • ace

    It’s unbelievable to me that while this plan is based on recommendations from the US Marshal Service, Mr. Higgs referred to them as “Marshalls” throughout the document. He should surely know better. What an embarrassment.

  • http://UmqaoU GIVEMEABREAK2M

    The city will not do anything about building a much needed new court complex until someone is hurt or killed. What a shame. It seems to me that it would have been better for Councilman Howe if he had advised the entire council of his intensions before trying to do it alone. The full council should have agreed to move forward with this “concept” before a presentation by Councilman Howe is made.

  • William Tanner

    Can this guy be impeeched and kicked out of office? What a farce! Asking for this kind of money in a recession! His deputies dont get compensated as local PD because most of them work MON-FRI and have weekends, nights and holidays off.

    Find me a deputy that will leave that job and I’ll show you a fool. It won’t happen.

    City Council – PLEASE ignore Higgs’ request.

  • intheknow

    The reason there is not parity between the salaries of City deputies and police officers is because there is not parity between their job responsibilities. Unlike the counties, in the City deputies are not responsible for law enforcement activities. They are not responsible for answering calls for service, working accidents, investigating crimes, traffic enforcement, crime prevention, etc. The police are responsible for those things.
    Deputies are responsible for court security, certain prisoner transports, and civil process. Most have not attended the basic law enforcement academy and/or have not met the DCJS training standards for law enforcemnt officers. They attend an abbreviated academy designed for court security and civil process.
    The City periodically hires an independent party to conduct a job analysis for all City positions. The last analysis found that the job of police officer involves more responsibilities which require more knowledge, skills and training than the job of deputy sheriff. Since there is not parity in the job responsibilities, there is not parity in the salaries. Over-valuing one position has the effect of under-valuing the other, and vice-versa.
    I would like to see all City employees receive long overdue COLA and merit raises. However, the Sheriff’s argument that his deputies salaries should be in parity with police officers is not pursuasive. In fact, it will cause more harm than good. While parity in salaries between deputies and police officers would surely increase morale in his agency, it would also send the message the City under-values the job of police officers. It either means deputies are being compensated for job functions they do not perform, or the police are not being compendated for jon functions they do perform.
    I’m sure any department head could convince a council person that the employees in his department should get a raise. The deputies deserve a salary adjustment; just like every other City employee does. However, like the other department heads, the Sheriff should let the job analysis speak for itself and keep the politicking out of payroll.

  • John Ryan

    What in the name of all that is intelligent is wrong with this sheriff? How dare he ask for this kind of money AFTER the budgetary process has been complete. Did he “forget” he needed another million dollars to do his job in Fredericksburg? I am outraged at his callousness given our economy – every SINGLE locality is doing more with less funds. Does he think Mr. Cameron is going to wave a wand and just “find” the money?

    I have serious reservations about his competence level given this outlandish request in our time of need. How dare he. Sheriff. Deputies: unlike so many others- – BE THANKFUL YOU HAVE JOBS.

  • Matt Kelly

    A point or two of clarification. 1) Council directed, as part of the RFP process for court proposals (which still makes no sense to me), that a plan be put together to deal with court security issues. From Council Minutes–”Councilor Howe moved to amend the resolution to include a closed session to discuss the confidential U.S. Marshall report on courthouse security at the Circuit Court, General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and Council Chambers and to discuss with Sheriff Paul Higgs what has been rectified since the report was issued and to determine a plan of action; motion was seconded by Councilor Ellis. The Howe amendment passed by the following unanimously recorded votes. Ayes (7). Councilors Tomzak, Greenlaw, Devine, Ellis, Howe, Paolucci and Solley. Nays (0). None. ” Councilman Howe and Sheriff Higgs were operating under a directive of the City Council.
    2) It should also be pointed out that the Sherriff’s Office budget, to include salaries, is supposed to receive significant state funding. The failure of Richmond to meet their obligations to localities in this, and other areas, has been an ongoing topic of conversation. More so now with all the cuts coming due to the economic downturn. Our state delegation needs to be part of this conversation. It is interesting that localities are expected to meet their obligation while the state is not.

  • intheknow

    The immediate security concerns should be addressed immediately. That’s a no-brainer.

    Whether depiuy salaries should be in parity with police officers is a completely different issue which has nothing to do with court security. It most certainly should not be the Sheriff’s “Number 1 priority” when it comes to the question of court security. Whether or not a deputy makes a little more money is not going to alter the path of a bullet fired in a court room.

    If the Sheriff is attempting to “back-door” a raise instead of using the job analysis process used for the rest of City employees, his integrity should be questioned. If a raise is indeed his “number one priority” when it comes to the issue of court security, his judgement should be questioned.

  • JimmyDean

    Would someone tell that d***** fool Howe to butt out!

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