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Callaway County voters will see law enforcement sales tax propositions on ballot

Callaway County voters will see two half-cent sales tax propositions on the Nov. 5 ballot that, if passed, would increase law enforcement pay and capital improvements for criminal justice centers.

A public forum has been scheduled for Thursday evening in Holts Summit by the Callaway County Commission and the Callaway County Sheriff to explain the two propositions to voters.

Proposition 1 would allow the Callaway County Sheriff’s Department to hire more deputies and investigators.

“Our current staffing levels, we are able to provide two deputies overnight to the citizens of Callaway County and having two deputies to spread over 842 square miles is horrific,” said Sheriff Clay Chism.

He said hiring more deputies is best for community and officer safety.

Funds would go toward raising staff salaries to more competitive levels.

“We are going to have to raise the pay to both hire quality officers and retain them,” Chism said. “We do not want to be a training ground, it’s not productive.”

Current deputy salaries are up to 51% less per year than neighboring Cole and Boone counties, according to Callaway County officials.

Callaway County law enforcement employee numbers have risen over the years with 69 full-time employees in 2008 and 78 in 2018, according to the Uniform Crime Report.

Proposition 2 would go toward building a new Callaway County Justice Center.

Callaway County officials said the current courthouse was built 80 years ago, and a new courthouse is needed to improve safety and provide more space.

“Our courthouse is busting at the seams and there’s no room to do anything,” said Holts Summit City Administrator Hanna Lechner.

She said the county needs to expand the jail because it’s overcrowded.

“They don’t have enough room to house inmates so all of the females are in a storage area,” she said.

According to the county website, the number of felony charges filed has grown over the years, from 364 between 1994 and 1999 to 944 filed felony charges from 2016 to 2019.

If voters approve Proposition 2, funding would allow the Callaway County Law Enforcement Center to expand and transition the courthouse into a County Government Center.

A second public forum is set for Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. at 54 Country, 400 Gaylord, Fulton, Missouri 65201.

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Copyright 2019 KMIZ

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