CALHOUN COUNTY, S.C. — A call for action from the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office as they are requesting a higher budget for its deputies. In a county council meeting Monday night, Sheriff Thomas Summers explained their current pay has been affecting both retention and recruitment.
“I don’t lose people to Bamberg or Allendale. I lose people to Lexington, Richland, Orangeburg, to SLED, to Highway Patrol, that’s who I lose people to," said Summers.
The starting salary for deputies in Calhoun County is $35,300. He says this is about $10,000 than competing agencies in other counties. Sheriff Summers says this has contributed to at least six vacancies in their department, which is nearly 50 percent of his patrol division, meaning he's not able to meet National Patrol safety recommendations.
“I would need 35, 36 deputies patrolling. I’ve only got 16 slots. So I’m already understaffed, and underfunded," said Summers.
He says this also affects response time which averages 30 minutes. According to Calhoun County council chairman James Haigler, the council plans to review the need for raises.
“We’re gonna start looking at the budget and see where our numbers are and we’ll look at that and we’ll look at the entire county. I won’t just look at the sheriff’s department, I can guarantee you that. I will look at the sheriff’s department, but that will not be the only department," said Haigler.
Resident Tris Waystack's family has lived in Calhoun County for generations.
“If we don’t have a deputy when you call 911, we’re talking about life changing events and that’s why I’m passionate about it because I truly believe that these men and women that come out here everyday to serve the people of Calhoun County are owed the respect and there’s no reason they don’t make the same living wage as their counterparts in Columbia," said Waystack.