Budget committee sends sheriff’s bonus, raise to full commission

Published 11:49 pm Monday, February 14, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
Carter County Sheriff’s Department employees could receive a bonus of up to $3,000 if the recommendations of the budget committee are approved.
The committee voted unanimously Monday to send the recommendation for sign-on and retention bonuses to the full commission for approval at its Feb. 22 meeting.
“We have to do something to bolster what we have,” said District 7 Commissioner Aaron Frazier. “We need to help stabilize the sheriff’s department over the next six months.”
District 2 Commissioner Julie Guinn made the motion for the bonuses recommend all full-time employees receive a $3,000 retention bonus while part-time employees who work 20 hours receive $1,500. Chief Deputy James Parrish would receive the bonus, although Sheriff Dexter Lunceford would not.
The bonus would be paid quarterly, with the first payment retroactive to the first quarter of the fiscal year: Oct. 31, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021. The bonuses would be paid by funds available in the sheriff’s department budget.
“We have the available funds right now and the sheriff’s department wants to do it,” said Frazier. “We have the opportunity, we have a plan, so let’s do it now.”
Parrish also urged the committee to address the issue of pay raises for jail employees.
“The crisis is in the starting pay at the jail,” said Parrish. “We need to increase the starting pay so that we can compete with surrounding counties.”
Finance Director Carolyn Watson suggested what she termed a “short term band-aid” to the problem with the pay.
“Maybe a $1,000 raise can be given to where it is needed the most which is the jail and then look at other raises for county employees when we start budgeting for next year,” she said.
District 6 Commissioner Travis Hill expressed concerns about giving a raise to the jailers and not the patrolmen.
Deputy Gabriel Felty with the sheriff’s department addressed Hill’s concern.
“I am a low man on the totem pole and I will give it up (raise),” said Felty. “I am with the warrants division so everybody that has a warrant we have to go get them. The more successful we are, the harder it is for them (corrections). Our mantra is results and not credit and that means if we don’t get credit right now – so be it.”
Brad Johnson, District 3, made the motion for the $1,000 raise for 61 eligible full-time jail employees, with the department required to submit a verified payroll to the finance department showing compliance. The raise takes effect on March 1.
The committee also heard from Mayor Patty Woodby who said that the communications officer for the new radio system needs to be hired for the selection process of the radio system. Currently, there is no one that has the full understanding of the process for the communication system.
“You need to hire a project manager and that person should transition into the communications officer,” Parrish said. “That way you can make sure they are good stewards of the county’s money. It will be money well spent because it is very, very important to have someone in place that understands the process.”
The county has $80,000  in reserve to fund the position.
The committee voted unanimously and requested that Woodby set up a hiring board to vet applicants. The resolution also will be brought to the floor of the full commission.

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