Sheriff tells Commission: “We’re budgeted for under-trained, inexperienced deputies”

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Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning listens in on Wednesday's commission meeting as members finalized the adoption of the 2015 budget. (PHOTO: David Wood)

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Wednesday, Madison County Commissioners adopted a balanced fiscal year 2015 overall county budget of more than $159 million; that’s up $6 million from last year.

Commission Chairman Dale Strong even touted they were able to arrive at the budget almost entirely without dipping into reserves.

The budget allots for six additional deputies and eight new firefighters.

But there is about where the warm-fuzzies stop.

The 'yays' didn't have it until District 1 Commissioner Roger Jones let it be known, he's not a 'rubber stamp.'

"My voice is going to be heard," Jones insisted. "I may be at the end of the table now but I'm still in the room."

Jones concerns with the budget began with his claim the papers before him didn't represent him at all.

"I've had absolutely no input into this budget, Jones said. "It tells me this is what we're going to vote on, Mr. Chairman, I'd say this is your recommendation -- or maybe yours and some of the other commissioners -- but I had nothing to do with it."

Jones made a motion to amend the budget to prevent a two-thirds cut to the Madison County Health Department to the tune of $200,000. He also took issue with the defunding of the extension service and a $4,600 reduction to the soil conservation department.

Roger Jones was fit-to-be-tied as commissioners worked Wednesday to finalize their budget. (PHOTO: David Wood)

Roger Jones was fit-to-be-tied as commissioners worked Wednesday to finalize their budget. (PHOTO: David Wood)

Jones chided, "We can pay $300,00 for a special election and even more on a 'Cadillac' time management system that hasn't even been put into use yet -- but we can't fund programs that really help the citizens of Madison County. I say find that money. The money's there somewhere," said Jones, "find it!"

Both of Jones motions failed and he still voted against the passage of the overall budget.

Chairman Dale Strong said he met with each commissioner individually after county budget hearings two weeks ago.

"I believe that we're stretching every dollar as far as we possibly can. We're in the biggest recession that my generation's ever seen, and so tough decisions have to be made," Strong rebutted.

Another topic of much debate was the elimination of the county fire marshal position to come when Bobby Rollins retires from his post in 2015.

Commissioners will use Rollins' salary to help offset the nearly $200,000 cost of employing 8 new firefighters. The county will retain 2 deputy marshals.

Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning's message to the commission was loud and clear.  When it comes to his department, he says, "We can't survive on the funding that we receive."​

"You have no idea," said Sheriff Dorning as he became choked up during a WHNT News 19 interview.

North, south, east or west: when you call the Madison County Sheriff's Department, you expect professionalism and perfection. Dorning says the budget he's operating under is one hearkening back to the 1950s, and one he says will only support overworked and under trained personnel. After Wednesday's budget adoption, Dorning made it clear he's willing to fight to better protect the community.

The 7th floor of the courthouse was packed as county employees awaiting the commission's final decision. Commissioners' motions for amendments -- like Jones' -- and department heads' appeals for changes came, as they always do. But none quite as impactful or emotionally charged as when Sheriff Blake Dorning's ranks closed around him to address the commission in a show of solidarity.
Dorning's passion for his party was palpable.
Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning listens in on Wednesday's commission meeting as members finalized the adoption of the 2015 final year budget. (PHOTO: David Wood)

Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning listens in on Wednesday's commission meeting as members finalized the adoption of the 2015 budget. (PHOTO: David Wood)

"The risks that they take are astronomical. The general public doesn't see what they see every day. When you see a TV show they can't put you through the emotions, they can't make your heart rate go up, they can't give you the smells of what you're encountering. The public has no idea. These guys see it every day. They go into homes with so much human feces and filth and trash and work cases where you have small children crawling all over the floor. Every one of them would like to just take somewhere, give that small child a bath and take it home with them to give it the care that it needs," Dorning choked back.

"And they're so underfunded. We have the funding of a 1950s rural farm town," he claims.

Dorning says the purpose of the department's united front Wednesday was to plead with commissioners to engage the local legislative delegation.

"There's been no additional funding mechanisms to help Madison County meet the needs, that the public are moving here by the thousands, expecting. Those guys up there; is it their fault?," Dorning asked, pointing up to the 7th floor commission chambers, "No it's not their fault."

Dorning says he doesn't know how or when, but says if something doesn't change, more action is necessary.
Despite that grave forecast, the adopted budget did in fact allow for 6 additional deputies as well as a $1,000 salary raise for sheriff's dispatchers. The department is also obligated to $75,000 to be spent toward fleet costs and on an additional 911 center employee.

District 6 Commissioner Bob Harrison was out of town but left a note for County Attorney Jeff Rich to read to the commission. Harrison advised against adopting the budget writing he felt it hard to support a budget that cuts from areas like the health department while the sheriff's department got 'a third of budget.'  Harrison wrote, 'by state constitution,' there was no way the commission could create new revenues and were forced to make cuts to 'meet our responsibilities.'


  • Michael

    Here’s a tip for your deputies, stop beating people down in an act of revenge that causes you to fork up some dough in the courtroom.

  • mamac

    Go get some pointers from Sheriff Joe in Arizona.. He wouldn’t mind a it..He runs his jail sheriff’s department on pennies ..All we hear from ALL the departments from around here is more
    more more money ..And last I heard he had only like 2 repeaters to come back to his about 30 years .Yes, fellows he is DOING SOMETHING RIGHT…

  • Nuclear Mike

    All any citizen has to do is “read between the lines” of the double talk of “Commission Chairman Dale Strong even touted they were able to arrive at the budget almost entirely without dipping into reserves.”.

    Anyone can see that the local economy has been in a steady decline with only raising the tax rate as a “solution”.

    Real budget cuts in headcount, benefits and the tax rate will keep the City & County in line with reality.

    We have to balance our checkbooks at home to meet ends with less and NOW our local governments have the same responsibility or do they see the taxpayers’ monies as their own???

  • Ryan

    You don’t know squat, “Mike”. I know for a fact that tax revenue is up for Madison County. Strong blew $300,000 for a special election that everyone told him we didn’t need. He’s blow money on a new drop down gate, security cameras and time management system that doesn’t work. He’s trying to get to Montgomery on the backs of taxpayers and county workers. The commission is teetering on corruption.

  • Bill

    WOW!!!! Did someone wake up folks in Madison County?? Dale Strong is one BIG joke. How about a pay raise for the folks who deal with the other scum…….in the jail. They get spit on and attacked nightly and somehow they’ve been forgotten.

  • bbbeye3

    I think it’s sad how we neglect the sheriff departments staff! A great story to tell the citizens if madison county would be to air the life of a deputy sheriff! The hours they work, the pay they receive, the training they have to go through, the physical requirements…then compare their jobs to other county commission positions! I believe the public would be shocked how clerks make considerably more to sit behind a desk! It’s a shame! Shame on commissioner strong and every county commissioner to continue to overlook the law enforcement that protect us and continue to fund their own departments in such a way! Maybe we should add an additional seat with a voting right for the sheriffs department even the playing field!!!

  • Michael

    As I said in my first comment before some coward had it deleted, stop your deputies from beating people in an act of revenge and you won’t have to fork over a bunch of settlement money in court.

  • Carly Corinthos

    Here’s the deal: The problem is not the fact that the Commission has approved a lean budget. The problem is “Why is the budget so lean”. Here’s why: Dale Strong hires Campaign manager as full time county lobbyist @ $98,000 a year, Special Election cost Madison County $320,000, time management system over $300,000 that’s not currently in place, and no telling how much to maintain it monthly, $811,000 for a new accounting system, and no telling how many other unknown expenditures. The budget did not include cost of living raises for welfare bound workers, it eliminate the fire marshal’s office, “In a move that surprised local judges, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong today appointed veteran attorney Mark McDaniel to serve as a senior adviser to search for ways to make the local legal system more efficient.” ( how much did that cost taxpayers when there is already a county attorney on payroll). I hope all county employees are aware of the leadership. Also they need to make note of all the County Commissioners who vote with him to approve this budget. Since he is supposedly just a tiebreaker vote, they are just as responsible as he is if not more. These people are not being good stewards over taxpayers money. Why are these facts not being reported and looked into. The hiring of his campaign manger should be a violation of ethics along.

  • Matt Steelman

    Dorning nearly crying while speaking to the media wow he’s never done that before, smh! Problem is Dorning, he’s a low down wanna be ” for looks only” Christian. The reason Dorning has a training issue with his Deputies is easy, they all are idiots. Most of them got hired because of who the are related to or who they know. Look at the fools Dorning has promoted in the Department, he wonders why he is getting sued all of the sudden… His former deputy chief using Crack Cocaine, stealing cars ( Stephens is still working by they way)investigators stealing grant monies, deputies beating wives, a captain trying to cover for his son who beat a man and covered up a murder . What a circus, and he is crying, should be crying because he’s a terrible leader.
    For a Department that is operating on a “1950 rural farm town budget” look at the vehicles they drive, new trucks & Suv’s. If Blake Dorning really cared about Madison County he would resign…

  • mamac

    I think every county is hollering help… But the tax payers HAVE HAD ENOUGH! You cannot keep going up on taxes how is the tax payer pose to be paying taxes when they have lost there job. Don’t know who you all are talking about Dale Strong. But if he is spending like that wasting money, like one person said it “He’s trying to get to Montgomery on the backs of taxpayers and county workers. ” Well, it will catch up with him. And the TAX PAYERS needs to STAND UP heck people its yalls money the commission is working for YOU! Yall go tell them at the meeting WHAT YALL WANT DONE AND NO IF AND BUTTS ABOUT IT. If you the tax payer the ones that pays taxes don’t stand up who will? Dale Strong , the one that yall said is spending money when he shouldn’t be..We are going to have to start tell our “employes” ( county commission) what we want and expect from them when we vote them in.

    • Say What

      MAMAC, taxes have not gone up since the Republicans took control — that is why the budgets are so lean! When you cut off revenues you must also cut services to the people!

      • mamac

        NOPE.. Say what! Now SAY WHAT, the money is getting MISSED USED not my words but words from the citizens you cannot waste peoples money. I don’t want to hear all this bull crap there is money if it was spent right. Sheriff Joe runs his jail feeds his inmates for pennies a day…And runs his sheriff department with all kinds of equipment and vest guns,ect…And if he can do it I know ALL THE other sheriff’s department can. I ask a sheriff’s wife one day she was out campaign for her husband and I was asking about how her husband was going to spend the money and run the jail ect (if he got into office) and she went on and on about how he would run the jail. But I suggested how she and her husband should go to the links on line and watch Sheriff Joe and see how he runs his departments. And she said I have heard a little about him but I think that is a little inhumane what he does.. I said excuse me not hardly ..Inmates when they do something to get put in jail stealing, fighting, killing, child porn on and on and on…The inmates have lost the right to have rights. But that right there is exactly why all the jails around here have REPEATERS coming back time after time. Cause the city and county LOVES the money that the criminals bring in..Every city and county needs to wake up and realize they are working for the people..

  • Voter

    Dale Strong and the Commission is failing the citizens of Madison County. The Deputies are there when people call 911. Deputies are there at the citizens darkest hour and listen to the problems of the citizen why the Deputy alone is in their darkest hour. Most live off two to three hours of sleep after working two, three and four jobs just to feed their family. The Deputies are pushed beyond their limits. The citizens must understand from here on out that they can only expect what the county is willing to pay… If the County wants a employee living under the poverty line who is exhausted and worried more about feeding their family then that is what they will get…. Expect longer response times, neighborhoods getting eaten by criminal elements… When you only have two and at most times one Deputy covering an area and population compared with the city of decatur or athens….. Expect your cars to be broken into, homes to be broken into, drunk drivers to run free and very long response times… Monrovia and Harvest fire can forget traffic control as back up! When one of your fire fighters get hit by a vehicle you can ask Dale why we do not have a Deputy assisting with traffic control…. Dale Strong, you only have one to two Deputies covering from Triana to the Tennessee state line at night while you sleep at night night…. And the ones that are there are living off two to three hours of sleep from working just to feed their family…. I hope you and your family sleep well before you “FLY HUNTSVILLE”….

  • SDX

    Strong is a crook. His land deals enough should have been enough to have landed him in jail. Why he is still in power is beyond me. Madison County suckers.

  • yup

    What every crying about nit raising taxes fails to realize is that Madison County has some of the lowest tax rates in the state, especially in the unincorporated areas. The higher property tax and sales tax rates have been imposed by municipalities to line their own coffers by taking advantage of the low county wide rates to give them more room for increases thus leaving the County with little to no available options to increase revenue without making the incorporated rates sky high.
    Also be known that most of the sheriff fleet are used vehicles bought from another out of state agency to make the most out of vehicle
    And the average deputy (some with over 5 years)makes less than 30k a year. And HPD starts at over 36k.. food for thought

    • Corbin Wallace

      I would say the Deputies should move over to HPD. But… I know the majority if them could not qualify. In fact, only a few have made the transition in the last 20 years. Several tried, but only a few made it.

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