Mayor, sheriff urge new commission to increase officer pay
Published 1:24 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2022
BY ROBERT SORRELL
Carter County’s mayor and new sheriff urged commissioners on Monday to consider increasing pay for corrections officers and law enforcement officers.
The commission, which includes several newly elected members, met for its annual organizational meeting. During the meeting, Mayor Patty Woodby and newly elected Sheriff Mike Fraley spoke about the understaffing and low pay at the Carter County Sheriff’s Department.
Current pay for corrections officers and law enforcement officers is “absurd,” Woodby said.
New officers starting at the Sheriff’s Department begin with a pay rate of $13.47 per hour, or about $28,000 a year. Pay rates for surrounding counties are higher.
Woodby noted that nearby Unicoi County is increasing its pay to about $18 an hour for officers.
“We are not competitive at all,” said Woodby, who added that the county cannot keep losing officers to surrounding jurisdictions.
Fraley said he is about 50 officers short. The department is short about nine school resource officers and 10-12 deputies. In addition, Fraley said the jail should have about 55 total corrections officers. Currently, there are 26 corrections officers.
Recently, it was recommended to decertify the jail due to severe understaffing, said Fraley, who was in office for just more than a week when certification staff visited the facility.
“They cannot live off of this money,” said Woodby.
The mayor said officer pay should be the first thing the Budget Committee and the commission consider.
“I am asking the commission to fight for these guys,” Woodby said.
During the meeting, the commission also elected Ginger Holdren to continue serving as chairperson. Kelly Collins was named vice chairperson.
City Councilman Mike Simerly spoke briefly to the commissioners asking them to participate in a joint meeting with the city as the two government bodies work to improve the community.
The new commission also approved a few resolutions, including one to allow the county’s emergency management agency to participate in a mutual aid agreement with surrounding communities.
Emergency Management Director Billy Harrell said he and his deputy Kevin Kemp have trained to join the efforts. Any first responders in the county that are trained to work through the emergency operations center can participate in mutual aid events.
Commissioner Bob Acuff provided an update on broadband expansion efforts in the county. He spoke about a grant to work with SkyBest out of Boone, N.C., to provide fiber broadband internet to remote areas of the county. Internet could be provided to parts of Stoney Creek, Roan Mountain, Little Milligan and around Watauga Lake, he said.