MADISON, Neb. -- On Wednesday the Madison County GOP held a meeting, with Madison County Sheriff Todd Volk leading the discussion, touching on various topics from proposed legislation to the uptick in drug use.

Sheriff Volk opened the discussion by talking about the current challenges that that Sheriff's Office is facing.

He said that two of their biggest problems are recruitment and retainment as being in law enforcement is not a highly sought after job right now.

As a member of the Nebraska Service Association, they've been working on recruiting for the last year, but with little position to grow in higher ranked roles retention is the major problem.

Sheriff Volk said that the commission has been helping to raise their wages to keep staff.

Volk continued on to shed light on the housing issue plaguing the jail.

The jail's capacity itself is in good standing, although a need for more individual cells is rising as there is a growing concern for some of the inmate's mental health.

"With the loss of our regional centers, which were abused, we cant' argue about that, there's parts of that, that were abused," Volk said. "But there are not as many places for some of these people that do not take their medication to keep themselves healthy at least on that side, so they wind up in there with us."

Sheriff Volk closed out this topic by saying they are currently working to help get inmates suffering from mental health needs above their means transferred to Lincoln's Regional Center.

Sheriff Volk switched gears to discuss the key topic of drugs in the county, as he said there has been an increase in illegal substances such as heroin and even rumors of a possible rise in cocaine.

Along with these substances is the rise of fentanyl, leading Volk and his officers to stay equipped to administer life saving measures.

"Everyone of my deputies carry NARCAN with them, that's the counteractive fentanyl protein," Volk said. "We carry two vials with them, and sometimes that's what I've heard from other agencies, that's not always enough at times."

Despite these drugs being seen as more dangerous, Volk said he believes marijuana is also dangerous, as it has become more potent in recent years.

He said gummies and oils expose kids to marijuana, and kids can sometimes be mistaken by adults for smoking vape pens when it is actually marijuana. 

Before closing out this topic, Volk said that he and his deputies will be getting more involved in schools to help educate students after having to stop their visits due to Covid.

Sheriff Volk transitioned to speaking on two different proposed legislation bills both pertaining to gun use in the state.

Volk spoke in favor of proposed legislation LB-17, which would allow off-duty law enforcement to carry firearms on school grounds.

He said he believes that it will benefit the public's safety, as school incidents continue to grow nationwide.

The second bill he discussed was LB-77, which would legalize concealed carry without a permit.  

"When it first came out, I was a little iffy on part of what they did," Volk said. "It got a little bit better with some of the amendments that they are putting into it, especially with making it a little bit harder of a crime if you commit a serious misdemeanor while you are carrying that."

Sheriff Volk said that he has no issue with people wanting to protect themselves as long as they do it the right way, but he foresees opposition to the bill from those in the Lincoln and Omaha areas.

When opening the floor for questions, Volk was met with questions regarding the case surrounding former North Fork Area Transit General Manager Jeffery Stewart.

Late last year, Stewart was accused of embezzling almost $1 million dollars for personal use from the transit operation.

When questioned about the current status of the case, Volk said relaying any new information can hurt the trial, although he did say that Stewart remains on the run and there are warrants still out for his arrest.

Volk said that the deputies that are assigned to the issues have built a strong case with mounds of supporting evidence.