County Commission agrees to hire new jail overseer, raises for Sheriff admins

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MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners approved raises for the administrative staff at the Sheriff’s Office and a new position to oversee the Grays Harbor Jail on Monday.

The approvals were done Monday morning during the commission’s regular staff meeting. It took just 10 minutes between a presentation by Sheriff Rick Scott and the unanimous vote to approve the requests. Sheriff Scott said the presentation was so quick because he had met individually with the commissioners last week to go over his request.

Scott said that he will call his jail administrator a chief corrections deputy and will promote an existing lieutenant to the position. That leaves an open deputy position, which he says he will fill.

The new position will make $89,652. Scott says that he’s paying a deputy approximately that salary now because he has to pay so much overtime to cover the duties.

“I don’t expect there to be any impact to this year’s budget,” Scott said.

In 2009, the county laid off its jail superintendent as part of a series of cutbacks. As a result, the rest of the Sheriff’s administrative staff was used to meet those needs.

“Since that time, the jail has seen numerous changes to include increased inmate population, security concerns and facility issues in addition to numerous new internal programs for inmates,” Scott said. “All of these have been added to the responsibilities of existing command staff. I anticipate these changes to be ongoing within the corrections division as we continue to experience a large number of modifications to our staffing levels and issues with the facility. All of these dictate an increased need for a full-time jail administrator.”

Scott said one money-saving program being instituted will allow inmates to receive mental evaluations from Western State Hospital via online video conferencing. Scott says that will save manpower and transportation costs of transferring prisoners to Western State. However, he does need an administrator to oversee the pilot program.

Meantime, the commissioners approved raises for the administration to be more on par with what Sheriff Scott says the administrators should be making. Scott noted that some of the positions were making less than if they were a deputy.

As part of the raises, Scott’s salary went up 18 percent to $114,120. It’s the first big salary boost for the Sheriff’s position in several years. Then-Sheriff Mike Whelan had typically not taken a raise in an effort to cut his budget.

The undersheriff received a 14 percent raise to $106,308. The chief criminal deputy received an 11.5 percent raise to $94,956. The chief civil deputy received a 26 percent raise to $88,104. The deputy director of emergency management received a 7 percent raise to $70,428. The administrative accountant received a 22 percent raise to $69,300.

The total cost of the raises is $102,864 per year. The cost for the rest of the year will be $35,542. Scott says he’ll absorb the cost into this year’s budget and build it into next year’s budget.

Sheriff Scott says he can defend every raise offered and notes many months were spent trying to come up with fair figures for his staff. For instance, his chief civil deputy took on that position in 2012, but never received a raise despite absorbing many more duties. The budget manager has absorbed many more duties and responsibilities and is in charge of managing a third of the county’s overall budget, Scott said. The sheriff position, itself, has also not received raises despite taking on responsibilities of emergency management, courthouse security and other duties. The salary was based on approximately what the county’s public services director makes, Scott said.

“First, we looked to see what the salaries would have been had these positions gotten raises like the union staff had over the past 10 years,” Scott said. “Then, we looked at the added duties that the positions had taken on over the years and incorporated those responsibilities. For my position, the commissioners decided to base my salary on what the public works director is making. From there, changes were made to my top staff, as well.”

WISHLIST

Sheriff Scott had first asked for raises for his administrative staff and the new jail administrator when he first took office back in 2012. He had also wanted additional corrections officers for the jail, a public records clerk and improvements to the county jail.

The requests weren’t approved at that time. But, in the past year, under a new board of county commissioners, Scott has been able to get approval for every item off his wish list from that time period. Most of the approvals came not during the regular budget period, but between the months.

“I appreciate the county commissioners are willing to not just talk about these needs at budget time, but during the course of the year,” Scott said.

Previous commission boards have typically held the line on budget requests to only happen during discussions of the budget to take into account the priorities of the different offices and see how expenditures and revenues match up.

“I don’t think we need to budget that way,” Commission Chairman Frank Gordon said. “If we have the money to spend, then we can spend it. We need to trust out budget staff.”

“You know what this shows is that this board of county commissioners takes public safety seriously and puts it first as a priority,” Scott said. “And I appreciate that.”

Scott says he has a few more requests for next year’s budget request. For instance, he says he needs a new deputy to devote to the civil program to handle a huge uptick in activity. He also wants a new clerical position to help out particularly for the emergency management division and other programs.

“We’re still down positions from just five years ago,” Scott said. “And there’s still work to be done.”