Saturday, April 01, 2023

The year ahead for Mineral County Sheriff's Office

Mineral Independent | January 5, 2022 12:00 AM

Dissecting the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office, you have three departments that are intertwined, but each has separate specific responsibilities and duties.

People usually think of the deputies first and that makes sense as they are the face of the Sheriff’s Office. They respond to domestic violence, DUIs, loose cattle on roads, vehicle fatalities, etc. They have the most face-to-face interaction with the public.

Dispatch is what we consider as 911 when an emergency arises. They notify the first responders that will be needed in each case and communicate and coordinate with everyone through the crisis. They also answer the non-emergency number, (406) 822-3555, to answer questions and help direct people.

Detention, or jailers, are on premise next to dispatch and they take care of the prisoners, internal disturbances, medical needs, meals, escorting them to District Court, etc.

All three departments are staffed 24/7/365 with no 15-minute breaks, all holidays are worked, and 12-hour shifts are expected more often than not.

“Right now, each department is staffed except detention where we have one opening,” said Mineral County Sheriff Mike Toth. “But we are always looking and wanting to build a list of applicants for each section”.

The jail has 27 beds, including the holding cell. Toth has contracted to take state and federal prisoners which has not been done for many years at this jail, and this produces a healthy revenue stream. $78 per federal prisoner and $65 per state prisoner each day with a daily combination average of 12-15 brings in money that Toth would like to use for upcoming needs with security cameras for the jail cells being at the top of the list.

It will also help with employee raises and support the ongoing overhead of the jail (power, heat, inmates’ meals, etc.) and build up in an account for future improvements and expenses. Toth knew that the county wanted the jail reopened and the only way he could see this happening was for it to become as close to a self-sustaining entity as possible.

“I feel we had a good year. The jail will have been opened for 1-year next month and the entire staff has received multiple raises. We both started (Undersheriff Wayne Cashman) in August of 2020 and the hourly wage was $12.80 for Dispatch and Detention. Pretty quickly we raised it up to $15.00 an hour because we were not getting applicants at that amount”, Toth explains.

“That got us our first set of employees. Mind you, everyone was untrained, and some decided to leave after doing the job for a while and deciding it wasn’t for them. That happens. But all of a sudden, we have about three openings and not one application comes in, however, that was happening all over the state from McDonald’s to car sales and mechanics.”

Toth went back to the county commissioners and asked for another $2 per hour for detention and dispatch but it was after the 2022-23 budget had been finalized and approved. The commissioners met him more than halfway with $1.30 per hour more and the other 70 cents per hour at the next budget session.

“The deputies haven’t had a decent raise for a long time so we’re hoping that this upcoming budget year we can get a decent wage for them. Morale is high. The Deputies like working here but money is an issue as all but one of them have families.”

This past year, every deputy received a new service weapon, taser and body camera. State of the art computer systems in their brand-new police vehicles and the Dispatch Center is having the latest 911 system installed in central control next month. The six new police vehicles were the only cost to taxpayers but the monthly cost of purchasing them was already in the budget.

“Everything else was Covid money,” Toth shared. “This is going to be a good year as we are all working well as a unit. There has been expected turnover since I’ve been here but that has worked in our favor as I feel we have the cream-of-the-crop in all 3 departments now”.

2022 is an election year and Toth is looking forward to it.

“I hope the citizens see that I love this county and I’m trying to do my best. We’re in discussions with all three school superintendents to create a School Resource Officer which would be another Deputy. This person would rotate, with equal balance, to all three schools during the school year and then be on patrol in the summer when we’re the busiest. We’re all on board and putting our heads together for funding to cover the position”.

Everyone in each department of the MCSO understands that the schools and kids are to be the utmost priority and Deputies are to drop whatever they are doing and respond to any call from any of the schools.

Toth had expectations that his position would be a working-sheriff, meaning he would be on patrol with the Deputies, but that just isn’t possible anymore as being sheriff in Mineral County carries more administration responsibilities than ever before.

“I’m not a politician and that might be a downfall, but I’m a cop and I know how to run an office. I know how to give the service the people deserve. The deputies are friendly and want to meet and work with everyone. We all care and we’re here for public safety, and I’m a phone call away for anyone.”

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