Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson is asking for a $7.5 million increase in his department's budget.
Sullivan County sheriff's deputies stay busy answering calls and patrolling the county, but Sheriff Anderson tells us he needs more deputies. "I don't want anybody to have to call the sheriff's office and they need somebody, and we can't get them there because they are all tied up," he told us Wednesday.
That's why Anderson's asking for an additional $7.5 million for the department's budget. "We haven't had a real increase in about eight years in our budget, and you can't keep operating on the same budget as you had eight years ago," he said.
Anderson tells us the current budget is around $16 million. The extra money would get more deputies on the road and more corrections officers for the jail. "In the rural area alone, we have 80,000 to 90,000 people that we have to patrol, and we do it with 10 or 11 officers," he said.
We learned a professor from East Tennessee State University did a study of the department and said 50 additional deputies are needed to properly patrol the county.
Sheriff Anderson tells us that's why he's asking for the money. "I don't expect them to write me a check and give me what we have to have, but what I do expect is the county commission and the county mayor to come up with a plan, a five or six-year long-term plan on how we can accomplish this together," he said.
We spoke with Sullivan County Commission Chairman Eddie Williams, who tells us that large of an amount could be hard for the county to come up with. "For that large amount to come from the county, we would have to hunt some resources that we don't now have to get there to get it done," he said.
Williams says the commission is willing to work with Anderson, "It will come onto the budget committee to be looked from the standpoint of how much money is there to fund it," he said.
Anderson says that's all he's asking for. "I couldn't hire that many people that quickly. It would take a year, year and a half to hire all the people and train them, so we'll do it in steps and on a long-term plan," he said.
Anderson tells us he does not plan to file any type of lawsuit against the county any time soon, but he's not ruling it out -- the sheriff says he took an oath to protect the people and additional deputies are needed.