After seven months the Mineral County Sheriff’s office contract negotiations are complete. With jailers and dispatch employees receiving a $1.80 hour increase in their salaries. County commissioners met with union business representative Shawn Fontaine and employees on November 20 to discuss the over-due contract.
Starting salaries will increase $1.80 per hour with another $1.80 increase after one year bringing salaries to $13.11 per hour. Low pay has been an on-going problem plaguing the department which culminated in a strike last summer when a new collective bargaining agreement could not be met.
With the salary increase, it brings county detention workers and jailers in line with what employees in similar Montana counties earn, for example Toole county employees make $12 per hour said commissioner chairman, Roman Zylawy.
“This was one of the faster negotiations we’ve had in recent past and everyone seemed pleased with the results,” he said about the Monday meetings.
In addition to the increased salaries, all Sheriff Office employees, including deputies will receive a $50 per year clothing allowance. There was also a one-time longevity salary of one percent negotiated for employees who have been with the department for more than five years. All increases are retroactive to July 1, 2017 which is the start of the fiscal year.
The Sheriff’s Office has been in turmoil since Oct 27 when the detention center was closed due to lack of staffing. Two jailers had quit and one was terminated within a few weeks of each other.
The jailers who quit cited low-pay and poor management for the reasons they left their positions. Within a few weeks the county Sheriff, Tom Bauer, also walked out on his job. He said his resignation stemmed from his department’s lack of funding and his “disenchantment” with the county commissioners.
Undersheriff, Mike Boone was made Acting Sheriff until commissioners appoint one. The appointment will be in place until January, 2019 when a newly elected sheriff takes office. The department has had a serious issue with its turnover rate. Along with the low pay there is little incentive for longevity and has been accused of being a “training ground” for employees to gain experience and get required training at the County’s expense before moving on to jobs with better benefits.
“It’s been a revolving door, and it’s been like that since I was a deputy here in the ’90s,” Bauer had said in the past.
Inmates who had been housed at the county jail have been transferred to other facilities until steps have been made to get it opened back up. A committee was appointed and their recommendations were approved on Nov. 13. Including hiring a jail administrator. A job duty which had been done by the sheriff.
Applications for deputies, jailers, the jail administrator and sheriff are currently being accepted. The sheriff’s position will close by Dec. 1.