Sheriff Austin Garrett announced Wednesday that he was freezing multiple unfilled positions at the Sheriff's Office in order to give 16 percent pay raises to uniformed officers, including hard to fill correctional posts.
He said some $3.2 million that had been allotted for various positions, including chief deputy and some captains, would now go to raise the starting pay of correctional officers from $43,000 per year to $50,000 and patrol deputies from $44,000 to $51,500.
County Mayor Weston Wamp, who took part in the announcement, said the pay increases would go on up the supervisory line as well. He said, "This is a big deal. It's a pretty big moment for law enforcement in our county."
Sheriff Garrett said, "I've had three or four resignations just in the past week and a half." He said it has been especially hard to fill correctional posts and that, due to current staff shortages, that correctional officers have been working 12-hour shifts.
He said the plan, that was worked out by Chief of Staff Ron Bernard, makes sense because "we have been returning millions of dollars to the county budget each year for the unfilled positions."
The pay increases come after the prior County Commission had raised correctional officers from $38,000 to $43,000 and patrol officers from $39,000 to $44,000.
County Commissioner Greg Beck said when he was working in the jail "not that long ago" that pay was $16,000 a year. He said the jailers filled a County Commission meeting and got a raise to $20,000.
Mr. Wamp also told the commission, "The financial outlook for the county is not great. We have some tough decisions ahead."
He praised Sheriff Garrett for carrying out the pay increases without going back to ask the county for more money.