JEFFERSON COUNTY - By Megan Dillard - The Jefferson County Sheriff wants about a 4% increase in his office's budget.
It's day two of budget hearings at the Jefferson County courthouse.
Today commissioners heard from from 9 departments, including Sheriff Mitch Woods.
The sheriff kicked off this morning's discussions.
His budget request is up almost $400,000 from last year's budget.
Last year, the budget for the Sheriff's Office was 11.3 million dollars.
The proposed budget is $11.7 million.
New vehicles and contractual employee raises are part of the $400,000 increase.
Jail maintenance requires $200,000, and $8,000 for the also added to the proposed budget increase for crime lab expenses.
Some areas went down.
The Marine Division budget went down $10,000, as well as the training department.
Training generates revenue from officers outside Jefferson County.
The training budget was decreased by $8,000.
The sheriff did not ask for any new employee positions.
One topic that caused a stir during the budget hearing was overtime.
The Sheriff's Office says the overtime budget has gone down.
One commissioner says it's not enough. He wants to keep a close watch on those figures.
Deputy Rod Carroll says, "We're very stingy on overtime, the requests that go in for overtime. But the thing is, in our industry, we're a service industry. If we have a SWAT call out at 2 o'clock in the morning, we can't wait, tell the barricaded subject, you have to wait, we'll have everybody in here at 8 a.m."
Commissioner Bo Alfred says, "How many people are getting overtime? It may be 50, it may be one, it may be 2 two. I want to make sure that we have some way of defending what is down on paper and that it's some actual good data that provides for overall review."
Another big-ticket discussion item during the budget hearings was Ford Park.
The entertainment complex has stood off 1-10 in Beaumont for a decade.
You can see the blue and white sign from either direction on I-10.
A big entertainment venue, the center of a big debate.
"Since the taxpayers own that facility, I think they're going to want their facility to be taken care of."
"When I go visit, I go to the supermarkets, people are still asking that question. How can you do things better at Ford Park?"
Many think it's just a place for concerts.
But what's more likely to happen here looks more like this.
"We're going to shift our focus. We're going to try to book more family-type events, more banquets, more corporate events that do go business for the facility."
Ford Park General Manager John Hughes says concert ticket sales are down across the country.
"There's clubs, there's bars. There's all types of things competing for entertainment dollars, plus the economy's tight."
He's asking commissioners for $200,000 dollars more than last year's budget.
And that leads to a decade old debate.
Judge Branick says the county hopes to run it as cheaply as possible, but to keep it running.
"The facility is approaching ten years of age. It has some maintenance issues that need to be addressed."
Commissioner Alfred said it's a tough sell to taxpayers to give $2 million to the venue.
"Is ford park an essential in Jefferson County?"
"It's here now, and I'll say that it's here. But when you start comparing the entertainment to law enforcement, compared to making sure there's good roads, when you start comparing it to things of that nature, then you have to draw some lines and make sure that you're doing some things that are more appropriate."
Commissioners won't decide whether Ford Park gets it's budget increase until September.
"I think that we have support of the commissioners. They're tasked obviously with asking hard questions, which is fine with me."
The ten-year debate over the value of Ford Park will end in a few weeks, at least for another year.
Dog Jam 2012 is scheduled at Ford Park this Saturday, and comedian Kevin Hart is performing at the venue in August.