Commissioners have tabled a request from Sheriff Frank Scharmann for two more deputies, saying they want an independent third party to study the sheriff's staffing needs.
The commission also indicated it will consider establishing a law-enforcement special service district in Stansbury Park as a way to meet the demand of Stansbury residents for more police coverage.The decision to put his request on hold angered Scharmann, who ap-peared at a commission meeting last week to tell county officials his department is so short on deputies he cannot provide adequate police protection.
"We're not fulfilling our obligations," he told commissioners. "We only have two to three people on duty at any given time."
The sheriff also said the lives of his officers are being placed in jeopardy because he lacks the officers to provide backup in potentially dangerous situations.
Scharmann was critical of county spending on the new Deseret Peak recreation complex, suggesting the federal environmental mitigation money being used to fund that project would be better spent on more deputies.
But commissioners questioned Scharmann's claims, contending the sheriff's force is better or comparable to departments of similar size and workloads.
They also said most county residents are satisfied with the current level of police service and would prefer to see the county invest in recreational opportunities that would help local youths.
Commissioner Gary Griffith said the best way to resolve the dispute would be to hire a third-party consultant to evaluate the department's needs. "That would take the personalities out of it," he added.
In a caustic exchange that underscored the division between commissioners and the sheriff, Scharmann accused the commission of refusing to communicate about his department's need.
"You won't sit down and talk to me," he said. "You don't care.
"Go ahead and make your decision and I'll be gone," he added. "But I won't go away."
Commissioner Lois McArthur said Scharmann also needs to take responsibility for communication. When other department heads have requests, "they come to us. We don't go to them," she said.
In a rare press conference after the commission meeting, Commission Chairman Teryl Hunsaker conceded relations between the sheriff and commissioners "are stormy and somewhat strained."
But he also said he supports law enforcement and called Schar-mann "an excellent sheriff who is doing an excellent job."
"It's a matter of financing and of taking care of taxpayer dollars," Hunsaker said. "I think we're spending a . . . large amount of money" for law enforcement already.
"I don't think we need an officer on every corner or in every school," he added. "I don't think we ought to live in a police state."
Scharmann, who has said publicly his department is being hurt by personality conflicts between himself and the commission, asked for five deputies last year through a federal program intended to place more officers on duty.
Commissioners rejected that request, saying the money was "soft" and that the county would have to pick up all the cost in a few years.
The commission funded one more deputy position in its fiscal 1998 budget, McArthur said, but the sheriff is requesting two more deputies "in the middle of the (budget) year" after all the funds have been budgeted.
Salary, equipment and vehicle costs for two new deputies would be about $120,000.
Commissioners said there are competing demands from other departments that must be considered in budgeting limited funds.
"The sheriff is not the only unhappy camper" in Tooele County government, Hunsaker said.