Hilliard Northwest News

Chief deputy: Staffing at county fair cost about $18K


The Franklin County Sheriff's Office spent about 60 percent less on personnel costs in staffing the 2014 Franklin County Fair than it did in 2013, according to Chief Deputy Jim Gilbert.

Gilbert said the sheriff's office reduced the number and use of full-time deputies and relied more on volunteers from the sheriff's office's citizens police academy and the Franklin County Volunteers in Public Safety Support, or VIPSS, program.

He said the office spent $17,748 for staffing during the Franklin County Fair, held July 12-19 at the fairgrounds in Hilliard.

Gilbert added the sheriff's office last year spent about $46,000 for staffing.

Volunteers from the citizens police academy and VIPSS donated 308 hours of service this year, Gilbert said.

The volunteers were deployed more effectively and efficiently than in previous years, he said.

"We were able to cut costs by reducing the number of (full-time) deputies we had on duty on one shift, from three to sometimes one, and coupling our full-time deputy with one of our volunteers," Gilbert said. "At the end of the fair, we believe we provided adequate protection and service at a reduced cost and will continue to provide this service in the most efficient way possible."

Gilbert said he visited the fair three days and there were "no major issues" or any arrests made during the eight-day event.

He also said the sheriff's office's bike patrol was a success. The sheriff's office established a bike patrol earlier this year and the county fair provided an early opportunity to showcase its strengths.

"We were able to get from gate to gate and other parts of the fairgrounds quickly, to help employees with anything they needed," Gilbert said.

The bike patrol also assisted with locating a lost child on the second day of the fair, he said.

"There were spikes in attendance on certain times and days and we will assess that and use it next year," Gilbert said.

Attendance was up and exceeded projections, said Christy Clark, a member of the Franklin County Agricultural Society.

About 42,000 patrons visited the 2014 Franklin County Fair. Last year, attendance was 35,300.

Dwindling attendance prompted Sheriff Zach Scott earlier this year to announce the sheriff's office could not support staffing the fair with full-time deputies at the same levels as previous years.

The sheriff's office and the fair board in April even appeared close to cutting ties but eventually reached an agreement for the sheriff's office to maintain its presence at the fair in a manner that allowed the office to maximize its resources and justify expenditures.

"Our communication with the fair board is great today and there will be ongoing communication as we prepare for next year," Gilbert said.