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Tax dollars for deputies' college education? Cruisers parked at fitness center?

Scott Seitz2 • May 19, 2014 at 5:07 PM

Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard explained a pair of issues that recently came into question by a county resident.

That resident, via email, claimed the sheriff was using tax dollars to pay for employees' education at a local university.

The resident also claimed seeing sheriff's cruisers parked at a south-side fitness center recently.

Howard was more than happy to address these items when asked by a reporter Thursday.

The sheriff spoke first about the cruisers spotted at the fitness center.

"That is permitted and reinforced," the sheriff said.

Howard added deputies either coming to or going home from work are allowed to stop at the fitness center for a workout.

"We want the deputies and corrections officers to stay in shape," he said. "If they are not coming to work or leaving work to go home, they can't take a cruiser to the fitness center.

"This is part of the wellness program," the sheriff said. "It's nothing new. It's been going on 25 years. We don't pay the memberships."

Howard said with deputies working out, it helps with the overall health-insurance cost.

There are about a half-dozen officers who are involved.

Howard said he received clearance from the county and the County Risk Sharing Authority.

"We also have a small gym here at the office," he said. "We've had 30 officers injured in the past 5 1/2 years. This is a way for them to stay healthy, stay in shape and protect themselves.

"I stand by this program 100 percent," Howard said. "It's the right thing to do."

He then talked about paying for employees' education.

"We don't pay for anybody's education," he said.

Deputies/corrections officers who have a law-enforcement-related degree receive an annual stipend, which is $200 for an associate's degree and $600 for a bachelor's degree.

"This is part of the union contract," Howard said.

"We do encourage higher education and look for that in the hiring process," he added. "But, we don't pay for it."

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