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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Sheriff pleads with commission to increase county's wages

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

MOUND CITY – Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend met with the Linn County Commission on Monday, Jan. 9 to revisit a concern he had expressed to them about the pay plan schedule in the county several weeks ago.

Friend said that the county needed to study the matrix, or pay plan schedule, in Linn County and where it falls in the finances.

He said the salary schedule was affecting his ability to hire and keep staff. He told that commissioners that his jailers start out at $14.44 per hour while the pay in Miami County for a jailer is $17.85 and $17.09 in Anderson County.

Other positions that fall behind in the sheriff’s department are dispatchers in Linn County for $15.59 per hour as compared to $17.85 in Miami County. Deputies in Linn County start at $16.84 per hour while deputies in Miami County start at $20.45 and $18.41 in Anderson County.

Friend said that it was not just the sheriff’s department that had this disparity, it was the public works department and the rest of the departments.

The whole county is suffering, said Friend.

He gave an example of Jeremy Willard who had worked for the county for 14 years and left because he could get a job that paid him $12 more per hour.

He pointed out information from the classifieds from the other counties in the Linn County News that he had given the commissioners and said it was hard to compete for employees.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said that it must be hard for the other counties to get employees also if they were putting ads in the Linn County paper.

Friend asked Johnson why he thought those counties were putting ads in the Linn County paper. He said it was because Linn County has the certified people.

Friend asked why wouldn’t county officials fix the salary schedule so that Linn County employees receive wages comparable with adjoining counties.

He offered a suggestion of completely removing the lowest rate on the pay schedule and moving everybody up.

“I don’t know, in 2023, how we can get an employee for $8.67,” said Friend.

Commissioner Jason Hightower asked if the new income from the jail was making enough money to help with a pay raise.

Friend said not yet, but if they can keep a proper staff he projects that the jail will bring in $1.77 million in 2024. The projection is that there will be 40 federal prisoners and 20 Wyandotte County prisoners. He reminded the commissioners that the money goes to the county not his department.

Friend also said he believed that the money was there this year to allow for a wage scale increase. He explained that while he had budgeted for the new Justice Center to open Jan. 1, 2022, they did not move in until the third week in August. So, the money, nearly $585,000, he had budgeted for utilities and salaries was left over and went back to the county coffers.

Friend estimated that the county’s $6.3 million payroll budget would raise approximately $500,000 if the pay scale matrix was changed.

“Linn County employment right now is suffering,” said Friend.

The commissioners took no action.

Next, Friend asked the commissioners whether they wanted to have a service contract on the generators at the health department and the courthouse. He said he was meeting with the company that has the service contract for the Justice Center building on Jan. 27 and thought he would ask the commissioners if they wanted those generators covered under the same contract.

Friend said that it was required that he have the generators at the Justice Center under a service contract. He explained that the contract was from Clifford Power Systems through Apple Electric, the company that did the electrical work at the Justice Center. He said that River City, the company that built the justice center required Apple Electric to cover the generator system for three years.

Friend explained that his concern was that the county has not always kept up on its generator maintenance and he wondered if the commissioners would want to have a service contract to cover those other generators. He said the ones that he is responsible for are the two at the Justice Center and the one at the tower along Kansas Highway 7.

“I think it is prudent to have some kind of scheduled maintenance on this equipment,” said Friend.

The bid package that Friend is working on is inclusive for five years and if the county pays up front there is a five percent discount.

The commissioners decided to find out what the bid would be for adding the generators to the contract.

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