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Jail Committee OKs 50-Cent Across The Board Raise

Mercer And Boyle Fiscal Courts Have To Approve Raise

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

The Mercer County-Boyle County Joint Jail Committee has approved a 50-cent across the board raise for all guards at Boyle County Detention Center.

Last month, the committee denied a $1 across the board raise, with Mercer County Attorney Ted Dean and Judge-Executive Milward Dedman and former Boyle County Attorney Lynne Dean all voting no. While they admitted the pay increase was necessary to retain old employees and attract new ones, they said it was an idea that needed to be discussed when it was time to draft a new budget for the regional jail.

“I give you my word we’ll revisit this,” Dedman promised.

However, Boyle County’s newly elected jailer, Brian Wofford, brought up the idea of a 50-cent raise, with a commitment to increase pay another 50-cents the next fiscal year, as a compromise. Wofford said funds were available to cover the pay increase, which would cost $60,000 until the next budget, Wofford said.

The jail is currently $49,000 under budget, largely because they have been understaffed for five years, he said. Wofford said the recently concluded study of jail overcrowding showed more deputies were needed.

“The jail study clearly shows the jail is in crisis,” Wofford said. “We have to do something or we’re going to lose more employees.”

Making it even harder to retain employees is nearby Northpoint Training Center, a state-operated medium security prison which offers a higher starting pay. Wofford said he’d lost two deputies to Northpoint.

While Ted Dean said he wasn’t against the raise, but he did question the timing. Dean noted that 30-percent of the jail budget—around $1.4 million—is for personnel costs.

“We’ve raised starting salaries 22-percent over the last few years,” Dean noted.

The measure passed, with only Dean voting against it. New Boyle Judge-Executive Howard Hunt, County Attorney Chris Herron and Wofford voting yes.

Boyle will shoulder most of the cost of the pay raise, said Treasurer Mary Conley. Last year, the two counties renegotiated the percentages each contributed towards jail operations. Mercer now pays 27-percent, with Boyle paying the rest.

“Boyle County’s going to pay the lion’s share of this,” Conley said.

Judge Dedman also voted yes on the issue, saying he was against issuing a raise so late in the budget cycle, but wanted to bring it before the Mercer County Fiscal Court and get the magistrates’ input. Both fiscal courts will have to approve the pay raise.

The next meeting of the Mercer County-Boyle County Joint Jail Committee will be on Friday, Feb. 8, 1:30 p.m. at the Mercer County Fiscal Courthouse (207 West Lexington Street).

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