Deputies funded by tax increase ready to join El Paso County Sheriff's Office ranks

By Garrison Wells Published: May 31, 2013 | 12:00 am

On Friday, 36 students will graduate from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office training academy.

Another 40 are in the pipeline.

The department also is looking to hire a fire investigator and an emergency response planner.

What a difference a few million dollars can make.

The department, said Sheriff Terry Maketa, is filling spots that have gone empty for several years because of the county's ailing budget.

There have been plenty of funding requests, but "the money was never there," Maketa said.

The difference has been ballot measure 1A, a tax proposal for the department approved by county voters in 2012 that is expected to pump $17 million into county coffers.

The measure was approved by 64 percent of the voters and is set to sunset in eight years.

The 36 graduates will fill spots in the Criminal Justice Center, the county's only jail. Some of them are expected to transfer to patrol by July 1, Maketa said.

Other positions he expects to fill include detective slots and about 30 civilian jobs in such areas as dispatch and records.

The fire investigator position is needed because of the workload for the department's sole investigator, who is also the department's hazmat coordinator, Maketa said.

Over the last couple of years, the department has averaged 35 to 50 arson cases a year.

"It is a matter of workload," Maketa said. "These cases can be time consuming. You're looking through the haystack for the needle."

The El Paso County Commissioners approved that position with a salary of $3,830 to $3,926 a month.

The benefits from the ballot measure, said County Commissioner Peggy Littleton, "are off to a good start."

Maketa, she said, "has an opportunity to get the deputies he has had the desire for."

Most important, she added, is increasing the staff at the county jail.

"We were really putting deputies lives in danger out there the way it was understaffed," she said. "I'm excited to get those positions in."

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Contact Garrison Wells: 636-0198

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