The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Commissioners okay sheriff's budget request

 

November 9, 2017



Wahkiakum County commissioners wrapped up preliminary budget work Monday by agreeing to raises in wages for sheriff's department personnel.

Commissioners Blair Brady, Dan Cothren and Mike Backman had recessed their meetings with department heads to Monday to get more details from Sheriff Mark Howie about his requests.

The sheriff's major requests included creating a sergeant position for corrections officers and boosting wages by two steps of the salary schedule.

Commissioners had discussed the requests at a meeting last week, and they discussed it again Monday, finally agreeing to create the sergeant position and increase the wages by one salary step.

Howie explained that there is only one supervisor for the corrections/dispatch personnel, so that person is essentially on call all the time. The new sergeant would involve existing personnel, not add a new employee, and ease some of the supervisory duties for the chief civil deputy.

As for the wages, Howie pointed out that Wahkiakum officers are among the lowest paid in the state. That makes it difficult to retain good officers, he said.

Commissioner Dan Cothren agreed.

"I thought about the numbers all weekend," he said. "We have to be fair. Some are pretty out of whack, from my point of view. It's a tough one. It's a big department and a lot of people we're dealing with."

Commissioner Mike Backman was initially reluctant to approve the requests.

"So my thought is that this department is as big as the rest of the county," he said. "So if we do it in steps, break it up so we're not doing everything."

"It's a mindset," Cothren said. "That's going to offend that person. That's what bothers me, that I'm being fair; that's what bothers me."

"The money is there," Howie commented.

"And if the money isn't there, we'll be laying people off," Cothren said.

Commissioner Blair Brady agreed.

"If we do approve this request, people need to understand that if the economy gets worse, there's layoffs.

"We have been kicking this can down the road for some time."

"I've always said that if we could do it, we'd do it," Cothren said, referring to past years in which the board has held off on increases because of revenue shortfalls. Commissioners are anticipating good revenues for next year.

"The money is not in the bank," Backman said. "That's the part that drives me nuts."

"That's part of the risk that all departments face," Brady said.

After more discussion, Cothren moved to approve the requests, with the exception of two non-union employees. Brady, board chair, seconded the motion. Backman moved to amend the motion to include all employees; the amendment passed, and then the amended motion passed 30.

The auditor's office will compile all the modified requests from all departments and present the proposed numbers later this month.

 

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