Ben Hill residents concerned for public safety - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Ben Hill residents concerned for public safety

FITZGERALD, GA (WALB) -

Ben Hill County Commissioners will sit down for their monthly meeting in an hour. The budget and controversial cuts they ordered will be at the top of their list of items to discuss.

Commissioners approved an 8.6-million dollar budget last month, down 10-percent from last year. The Sheriff says he can't handle cuts that deep and will sue if commissioners don't alter the budget.

Ben Hill Commissioners had to reduce this year's budget by 1 million dollars from last years 9.5 million dollar budget.

"Just getting through 2012, when you start out in the hole, it was a very tough year, we ended the year in the black, we paid off our debts, but at the same time we have to do better going forward," says Frank Feild, Ben Hill County Manager.

But a smaller budget means less money for each department of the county.

"To come to that number we looked at the 2012 budget and determined what percentage of that budget each department used and then we took that percentage and applied that to the $8.5 million and that became their budget," says Feild.

Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore says he can't work with a budget that is $318,000 less than he had last year. He says he has already cut 8 positions to help with the budget, but in order to cut an additional ten percent he would have to cut 16 more positions.

"We have great respect of what the Sheriff does, he has an extremely difficult job and when you have to start cutting back, that is asking an awful lot," says Feild.

Feild says it is what has to be done in order not to raise taxes. But with the cuts in the Sheriff's office, residents are concerned about public safety.

"Times are hard and I do hate that they have to cu the budget because I understand he may have to cut some deputies, and that will affect the cities safety," says Chas Davis, resident.

And jeopardizing public safety is something he and some others say the county should not do. The commission will have monthly meetings throughout the year to keep track of the budget.

If departments are having problems, they'll have the opportunity to come before the commission and discuss it.

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