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JPs discuss comp. time, pay raises

DEWAYNE HOLLOWAY|dewayne@mcnews.online
MOUNT IDA – The Montgomery County Justices of the Peace had a busy night as the Quorum Court discussed possible raises for the sheriff’s department and other county employees.
Montgomery County Sheriff David White addressed the court regarding the issue of compensation time, commonly known as comp. time, within his department. He reminded the JPs that he warned the court about comp. time accumulation in 2019 when a hiring freeze was placed on his department.
Sheriff White added that he had stressed the need for additional trained and certified personnel in 2018 during discussions regarding the new jail. He stated that he had asked the court to allow him to hire and train new employees before the new facility was opened. He said that the court budgeted for the increase in personnel to begin in 2019. However, the hiring freeze prevented the hiring of additional personnel.
In response to comp. time he pointed out that the only members of his office not eligible for comp. time are himself and his chief deputy.
Sheriff White reported that his office responds to over 300 calls per months and have taken over 3,000 calls this year. His office has filed over 700 reports this year with 560 incident reports and over 150 accident reports. They have also served approximately 150 civil papers including summons and subpoenas.
The sheriff’s office is responsible for registering and tracking registered sex offenders within the county. There are currently 44 registered sex offenders residing in Montgomery County.
There have been 67 felony cases filed in 2021, over 20 of these involve rape and other violent offenses.
The new facility has placed a heavy burden upon the sheriff’s office. The moving of equipment and evidence is an ongoing process. Sheriff White praised Chief Deputy Will Brakefield for his efforts in overseeing this work.
The sheriff once again stressed the need for qualified employees working in the new facility. He cited the need to avoid the risk of a law suit due to negligent assignment. This would occur if an incident in the facility led to an injury to an inmate while being supervised by unqualified staff. The sheriff pointed out that during his tenure as sheriff the county has not been successfully sued as a result of his department.
In an effort to provide adequate coverage in the detention center the sheriff stated that he instituted a 12 hour shift rotation. He apologized to the JPs for not bringing an ordinance for them to approve, but felt the schedule was in the best interest of the county. He explained that to staff an eight hour rotation he would need to hire two additional full time employees at a total cost of approximately $80,000 a year. The 12 hour rotation allows his department to cover the facility for an additional $13,000 a year.
The sheriff’s office is currently contracted with six different entities to provide services. They provide patrols for the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Forest Service, as well as the city of Mount Ida. They also provide school resource officers (SROs) for all three county schools. These contractual obligations often require deputies to work beyond their scheduled hours.
The department has also lost three part time officers which adds additional hours for the full time employees.
Sheriff White stated that as the summer tourist season comes to an end he is able to start to work some of the comp. time off the books. He also pointed out that his department has had two full time officers leave, one of which wasn’t replaced. There have also been three officers off for medical leave.
Sheriff White submitted three proposals that would provide pay increases for members of his staff.
The first proposal was a longevity raise. He pointed out that currently employees of his office all are paid the same rate regardless of time of service. While employees do receive longevity pay at the end of each year, but he stated he didn’t think it was enough.
Sheriff White proposed that each employee receive a raise of $1,000 per year for every five years of service. He added that this would help his office retain more employees and allow them to become more competitive with other law enforcement agencies.
He added that he felt this proposal should apply to all county employees.
The second proposal would provide step raises for dispatch and detention employees based upon successful completion of training. This would provide a $200 per year raise per the completion of each of five levels of training. This would include: jail standards training; telecommunications course; BAC course; both ACIC and NCIC courses; and all Incident Command System classes. This would help ensure all staff are properly qualified and will help retain trained employees.
The third proposal would provide step raises for deputies based upon continued education. He proposes a $500 per year raise for every certificate received after their Basic Certificate has been awarded. This will offer incentive for deputies to become better trained while retaining officers.
Everyone on the board seemed open to the sheriff’s proposals. County Judge Sammy Jones stated that raises are needed, but pointed out that the county has to work within its budget. The proposals were received and will be discussed at a later date.
The JPs also passed an ordinance amending projected revenues and appropriating funds to the county library budget. The ordinance appropriates a total of $10,000. The funds come from the Ouachita Mountains Regional Library and represents eligible expenses for assistance from the American Rescue Plan.
The JPs passed an appropriation ordinance that appropriates funds from the Court Security Grant fund to the Court Security Grant Fund budget to pay for items purchased by the sheriff’s office. The ordinance appropriates $17,447.67 to cover payments for items in September.
County Clerk Penny Black discussed premium pay through the American Rescue Plan for county employees. The premium pay would cover time worked form January 27, 2020 through September 30, 2021.
Her proposal would pay each fulltime employee a one time payment of $1,000 with an additional $200 per month worked in that time up to 20 months. Parttime employees would receive half this amount. This would come at a cost of approximately $515,000 to be paid from American Rescue Plan funds.
The proposal will be voted on in November and will be paid in November if approved. This will be done in lieu of annual pay raises.

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