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Voice: First priority

March 11, 2006

The explosive growth in the Imperial Valley, both commercial and residential, is just unbelievable. In the last few years we have seen thousands of new homes being built and sold. The I.V. Mall and other retailers have seen this area as an economic boon and have moved in.

The county Board of Supervisors has “given away the farm” in an effort to attract this new development in anticipation of additional jobs and revenue.

When is this payoff going to occur? The board needs to recognize its No. 1 priority is to its own employees and the service they provide to the public. As a long-term county employee at the Sheriff’s Office, I have seen the level of service diminish while the need for service increases. Why? As a result of low benefits and wages this department is unable to recruit and retain qualified employees.

We have fewer patrol officers on the streets today than in years past. Considering the population growth and the demand for increased services, this level of staffing can lead to a dangerous situation. In the last year alone three of your deputies were victims of gunfire as they worked alone in the field. Calls for service have increased, as have response times. Calls for service and active investigations have to be prioritized. Someone is getting the short end of the stick. What does this all mean to you the citizens of Imperial County? You do the math.

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If our county Board of Supervisors wishes to maintain this “Band-Aid” approach to public safety, you the people are the final say. With new inexperienced employees and with the high ratio of calls in relation to the number of available employees (officers), the most one can expect is to have an incident documented at some point in time. With recruitment and retention come experience and competency. Instead of just a report you have a problem solver who knows the people and the area.

My concern is before the board “gives” our money away, it must prioritize and take care of employees.

MIGUEL M. LEON

El Centro

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