Recently questions have been raised about the availability of Sheriff's Office deputies to provide law enforcement in Columbia County.

The issue of the number of deputies in the Sheriff's Office has been an issue for years in our county. A number of levies to support an increase in the number of deputies have been put on the ballot in the last 10 years and they have all failed, so this issue is not new. In 2001 we had seven road deputies; in 2002 we had five; in 2006 we had six, the same number we are projecting for this year.

What is new is the way the sheriff is using his deputies to deal with crime in the county. The county commissioners continue to support the Sheriff's Office with 25 percent of the general budget of the county.

In addition to the general budget, the Sheriff's Office is funded by a variety of grants and income from the renting of jail beds to other law enforcement agencies.

The county commissioners are working with citizen groups and other municipalities to explore other ways of providing law enforcement to the citizens of the county. I would encourage citizen's interested in issues surrounding the operation of the jail or the Sheriff's Office to contact the Sheriff's Office directly or one of the county commissioners.

I do not feel any citizen of our county needs to get a gun for protection, and I would not recommend taking the law into your own hands.

We live in a great county with many positive attributes, including a safe place to live. We have great law-abiding citizens who only want the best for their kids and neighbors.

We need not succumb to fear; by working together we will deal with this law enforcement issue as we have with other difficult issues.

- Earl Fisher, Columbia County Commissioner

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