NEWS

Sheriff’s employees get five percent raises

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

Sheriff Brent Allain said he has given his employees a five percent across-the-board raise effective this month, at a cost of some $240,000.

The raises are the biggest addition to his budget for fiscal year 2009-10, but are half the size of the 10 percent raises he gave the employees for each of the past two years.

“With the economy, I want to make sure my budget stays in tact,” Allain said in a Courthouse interview last week.

Allain, now in his third term, said he has given raises every year he has served as sheriff.

“I can’t say enough about my employees,” he said, adding that the people of the parish praise them for being fair and “non-controversial” in carrying out their duties.

The sheriff’s office had a budget of $11.5 million in fiscal 2008-09, Allain and retiring Chief Civil Deputy Adeline Ambeau said. The sheriff said he has $8 million on hand to finish this calendar year, and expects to have $1.5 million at the end of the year, the time that his tax revenues come in.

For the most part, the office will continue programs that have worked well, Allain said.

“Schooling is constant,” he said. Members of the narcotics unit, the uniform patrol and others rotate in attending training programs. Chief Criminal Deputy Steven Engolio recently attended a domestic violence education seminar, and Detective Eric Ponson, who handles the evidence the sheriff’s office collects in criminal investigations, routinely attends training programs.

A 10-member SWAT crew, comprised of the motorcycle patrolmen and eight other members of the uniform patrol, train constantly on their off-duty hours, he said.

Allain said the department is constantly refreshing either the detectives or the narcotics division with equipment.

“We have to stay abreast of today’s world, and we’re doing it,” the sheriff said.

The crime rate in Iberville Parish has been low in recent years.

“It’s been an extremely quiet summer,” Allain said, knocking on wood.

He credited his department’s attention to narcotics operations as the main reason for the good statistics.

“I think our lack of crime has been because we have been so aggressive on narcotics,” agreed Engolio, who headed the Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) Task Force before replacing Allain as chief deputy after Allain was elected sheriff.

District Judge William C. Dupont introduced drug screening at the 18th Judicial District Court. Engolio said the last figures he saw was that 85 percent of defendants tested positive for drugs.

Sheriff Allain said grant funding for LEAD, a joint operation between his office and the Plaquemine Police, has been sporadic.

“I have every intention to keep LEAD intact,” he said.

But, grant funding is opening up in other areas. Allain said he is expecting $41,000 in federal stimulus money for the Sheriff’s Criminal Patrol, a unit he established to work Interstate 10 to find drug traffickers, as well as a $21,500 JAG Edward Byrne Memorial Grant to pay overtime to deputies who work Special Narcotics Aggressive Patrol (SNAP).

“We have quite a few grants in progress,” Ambeau said.

Among them, she said, are two from Homeland Security -- $51,700 for overtime pay and computer equipment for deputies and $266,000 for eight new patrol units.

Allain said he planned to buy Dodge Chargers on state contract from dealerships in New Orleans and Houma, now that the local dealership has closed. They stand up better on road duty, he said.

The office also is getting a $16,200 grant from the Capital Area Commission on Law Enforcement for laptop computers for patrol cars, and a $10,000 grant from East Baton Rouge Parish to check local barrooms and stores to make sure they are not selling alcohol to minors