Wickersham Delivers ‘State of the Sheriff’ to County Democrats
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham talks budget constraints, the need for a new jail and his hopes for expanding his office's presence in northern Macomb County.
The budget may be a little leaner next year, but Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham is actually hoping to expand his office’s operations and services in 2012-13.
Wickersham, who spoke to the Macomb County Democratic Committee on the “State of the Sheriff” Oct. 26, touched on cuts to the 2012-13 budget, the continued need for a new jail and possibly expanding the sheriff’s presence in northern Macomb County in the new year.
“A lot of people talk about doing more with less,” Wickersham said. “I try to provide effective and efficient service with less personnel. The need is still out there, but we’re going to do our job the best we can with less resources. The goal is to make it work.”
Wickersham would not cite specific cuts prior to the board of commissioner’s review, but said the 2012-13 budget does eliminate several positions. Fortunately, those positions are currently vacant, and none of the 473 currently budgeted personnel should lose their jobs.
“I did look at everything and make cuts where I could, but keep in mind, we want to protect the public and keep our operations running,” he said.
In terms of savings, this has been a successful year for MCSO. Eliminating $500,000 worth of overtime from the budget, Wickersham expects to come in under his $60 million budget and save money next year though two changes to service contracts for the Macomb County Jail.
- Food (Aramark to Continental Canteen)
- Medical services (Correctional Medical Services to Correct Care Solutions)
“There’s laws and responsibilities for the sheriff to take care of inmates while they are in the care and custody of the sheriff,” he said. “(Correct Care Solutions) had a higher bid, but a better track record and has saved other counties money over the years. I’m confident we’ll see savings there, too."
Of the sheriff’s $60 million budget, 76 percent is reserved for jail operations and prisoner care.
A “bare bones” $9 million is reserved for personnel.
“We work within our budget and save taxpayers’ dollars,” Wickersham said. “We continue to improve operation and scrutinize expenditures.”
Macomb County Jail
“If there is any negative, it is the Macomb County Jail,” Wickersham said. “The tower section 25 years old, older sections are 50-60 years old, and it’s in need of repair. We talked to experts. We need to implode that facility and build a new one, but we understand there is no money to do that.”
However, as the county’s population continues to grow, Wickersham said he expects the number of prisoners needing to be jailed will exceed the bed space available.
“In the future, this economy is going to recover,” he said. “Macomb County is going to continue to grow and with that growth, we need to increase bed space.”
Currently, the sheriff’s office and local courts use a bed allocation system to control the number of incoming prisoners, but Wickersham stresses this is only a temporary fix.
Expanding Presence in Northern Macomb
While many townships and cities in Macomb County have their own police departments, Ray, Bruce, Armada and Richmond have no police protection, with the exception of the sheriff in emergency situations.
Wickersham said he is optimistic that in 2012, these communities will be successful in pooling their resources to contract with the sheriff’s department for non-emergency services as well.
“They’re willing to put to their people a police millage, which if successful, will pool their resources together to increase police presence,” Wickersham said. “Right now we can only respond to a call if it is an emergency. It’s a tough time to ask for millage, but it is needed in those communities.”
The Bruce Township Board of Trustees approved police millage ballot language during its Oct. 19 meeting. The proposal will be placed on the Feb. 28 presidential primary ballot. If approved, it can collect up to 2 mills for four years.