Seeking financial help from budget committee… Sheriff’s department at crisis level with manpower

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, January 11, 2022

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The Carter County Budget Committee wants to give a 10% raise to sheriff’s department employees in an effort to recruit and retain employees.
The vote to recommend the raise came during Monday’s committee meeting, when members heard from Chief Deputy James Parrish about the struggle to maintain staffing in the department.
“We are at 50%, which is crisis level,” Parrish said. “We were 98% filled two years ago.”
Parrish said the department is in a battle with other correctional facilities for manpower from the same pool of candidates. The Tennessee Department of Corrections recently raised its pay to $44,000-plus a year with a $5,000 signing bonus.
“The TDOC is the largest consumer and they are short 100 employees,” Parrish said. “We are short 22 and Washington County is short 30. We are fighting the same battle for the same candidates.”
Parrish said if the county continues to lose jailers, it could lose its contract to house federal prisoners, which generates more than $1 million a year in revenue.
Currently there are 266 inmates at the jail with between 55 and 65 federal prisoners housed at the jail at any given time at a rate of $65 per day. There is a collaborative effort underway between other facilities that house federal prisoners to get that rate raised to $80 per day.
Parrish presented five items for the committee’s consideration: an $800 jailer training supplement; COVID hazard duty pay; a signing and recruitment budget where a new employee could receive a $4,000 signing bonus with $1,000 up front and $1,000 for each following quarter of the first year; for employees who recruit a new employee to receive $500 upfront and $500 for each of the next three quarters of the year; and an hourly increase for officers.
In regard to the $800 jailer training supplement, road officers receive $800 per year to maintain certification while the jailers are also expected to maintain certification but without any additional pay for doing so.
The committee voted 6-2 to approve the $800 out of the sheriff’s budget for the jailer supplement which will come before the full commission on Tuesday Jan. 18.
Budget committee chairman Austin Jaynes said that the sign on and recruitment bonus would need to go to Financial Management for a policy on how such pay would be administered.
Jaynes also informed Parrish that work hasn’t been completed in regard to hazard pay for county employees who worked during the COVID pandemic.
Committee member Travis Hill made a motion to give each employee a 10% raise across the board with the caveat that County Attorney Josh Hardin review to make sure nothing illegal would come of such a raise and then the full commission vote on the raise if approved by Hardin.
The motion was unanimously passed 8-0.
In other items of business on the agenda to be presented to the full commission:
  • Approved a request by Martha Dixon representing UETHDA to transfer $4,000 from the RSVP program that is being discontinued effective March 31, 2022, to another program within UETHDA that will be used for housing services.
  • Approved setting aside $150,000 for the construction of the new Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department from American Rescue Plan money.
  • Approved $7,500 towards grant writing for the residential recovery court program model and for consultation fees for staff development. The money will come from the opioid settlement money set aside by the commission.
  • Approved a Carter County Resolution and Capital Outlay Note for the purchase of three vehicles for the landfill.
The next Budget Committee meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14.

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