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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission, sheriff discuss jail finances, staffing

Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend and county commissioners discussed the staffing shortage at the jail. (Journal file photo)

MOUND CITY – On Monday, Feb. 6, the Linn County Commissioners and the Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend discussed budget issues with the new Justice Center.

Friend told the commissioners that the income billed to outside agencies for prisoners in January was just over $71,300. Other fees received by the sheriff’s department were nearly $4,200. These were about $250 from the 2002 Toyota Camry, Russell Garret Law Enforcement Trust Fund, nearly $2,700 from the U.S. Marshal’s Trans and Guard on Dec. 31, $500 from registered offenders, $45 for fingerprinting services, $345 from civil service, $320 for vehicle identification numbers, and $65 for reports.

Friend said that at the current rate of holding inmates, he expected the income for February to be less than $67,400 because of fewer days in the month.

The sheriff explained to the commissioners that he had spoken with the county’s municipal advisor Joey McLiney about whether the number of federal prisoners that the county was contracting for with the U.S. Marshal’s Service was going to affect the interest on the bonds for the jail.

Friend reported that McLiney said that, even with the contracted amount of 40 inmates, it would not affect Linn County’s bond interest in year 1 or year 2. But in year 3 or year 4 the county may have to pay more interest on their bonds. Friend said that McLiney planned to come meet with the commission soon to update them.

He said that it was exciting to hear that the county can get into the contract with the U.S. Marshal’s service and, depending on how staffing is looking at midyear, the county could take more inmates in to make more dollars. At present the county has federal inmates.

Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked if Friend had enough jail staff to do that.

Friend said that right now they could not take many more prisoners because the jail staff is a little bit low. He said that, with the current staffing, he thought the county could take in a total of 55 or 60 inmates. The jail has a capacity of more than 90 inmates.

If the jail is running three staff on the floor, that works pretty good, said Friend.

Right now, the sheriff’s department has 16 spaces for personnel in the jail and that is the minimum level of personnel to operate the facility. However, he said that one staff person was shipped out on military leave and one was on family and medical leave act (FMLA).

Friend told the commissioners that because they are short staffed, they are pulling people back in daily for overtime. So, if someone goes on vacation or sick leave, it leaves them short.

McCullough asked if the prisoners were available if there were more staff.

Friend said that Wyandotte County would like to have every bed we can give them. He said he could not see doing that to the jail staff. The U.S. Marshal Service has a contract for 40 inmates but is understanding about the staffing issues at present. But, he said, the county is not making the income.

Commissioner Jason Hightower said it appeared that the county was underutilizing the jail by not having enough staff. Friend said that he had asked the commission for more staff but had been denied that earlier.

Friend also brought up the concern about pay not being high enough to hire or retain employees. He reminded the commissioners that he had talked about this last week and suggested using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds or jail income for salary increases so they could hire more staff or retain staff.

Commissioner Hightower suggested that a business analysis with income versus cost be done on the jail budget to see if would be beneficial to hire more staff.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said he thought the only way that could be accurate would be if benefits of the sheriff’s employees were put in the budget. Both Hightower and Friend agreed.

Friend told the commissioners that he would like to be able to tell new hires what percent of their wages their benefits were because it is a good selling point. He said it would help him to have an exact figure to present to them.

Friend then brought up the proposal that Undersheriff Bobby Johnson had brought to the commissioners about changing the holiday pay and overtime pay for the sheriff’s department employees.

Friend said that when you put together a plan and you receive nothing, it gets very discouraging.

County Counselor Gary Thompson said that he, the commissioners and the clerk’s office had been working on it and they should have gotten back with Undersheriff Johnson to tell him that.

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