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Sheriff’s Office needs for personnel, better pay part of county budget talk
Commissioners hear from leaders of various agencies
Chief Deputy Bill Black of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office talks to the county commissioners Wednesday, March 22, during their two-day strategic budgeting retreat.
Chief Deputy Bill Black of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office talks to the county commissioners Wednesday, March 22, during their two-day strategic budgeting retreat. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

In addition to more personnel, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and Jail could use better pay – especially for certain positions such as jailers – to help recruit and retain them, Chief Deputy Bill Black told the county commissioners during this week’s county budget retreat.

The elected Board of Commissioners met March 22-23 in the Gene Bishop Field House at Paulson Stadium to hear needs and goals from county department and agency leaders. A strategy session designed to arrive at “the big picture” for the fiscal 2024 budget and beyond, the gathering lasted through the work day Wednesday and from 8:30 a.m. until early afternoon Thursday.

“Right now we’ve got a serious staffing issue, especially for jail staff,” Black said to the group Wednesday afternoon. “I think our health insurance is good, I think our new retirement helps, but  everybody’s complaining about their pay.”

One slide in his presentation reported the starting wage of a Bulloch County jailer as $16.18 an hour and that of an equivalent Effingham County jailer as $19.69 an hour, and the starting pay of a Bulloch patrol deputy as $18.69 and that of an Effingham patrol deputy as $22.63.

“They really let us know that, too,” Black said.  “They remind me every day that Effingham gets paid more than us.”


Jailer pay grades

A further slide indicated that Bulloch County’s pay grades for jailer, or “detention officer,” ranks are notches below those of the Sheriff’s Office’s same-named patrol, or “road,” deputy ranks. Regular detention officers are assigned to pay Grade 12; the patrol equivalent is Grade 16. A detention corporal is Grade 13; but a patrol corporal is Grade 17; a detention sergeant, Grade 18; a patrol sergeant, Grade 20. Lieutenants and captains have equivalent pay scales agency-wide.

“I’m sure everybody  wants a raise, but  I think especially those two lower grades, maybe try to get them up closer to where  our road side is,” Black suggested.

He  led off  the presentation, while Sheriff Noel Brown stood nearby  and commented from time to time. Although patrol officers face dangers, they are for the most part finished dealing with arrested suspects when they bring them to the jail, but detention officers then  face the  same  people day in and day out, Brown  noted.

“These (jailers)  are with these people around the clock, having to listen to all what they throw out of their mouths,” he  said. “They need more money, probably, than me, for the simple reason that they are babysitting these people for all these different agencies … and they’re  dealing with it.”


Proposed new jobs

The presentation also included Black’s summary of new staffing positions requested for the Sheriff’s Office and Bulloch County Jail for the county’s fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023. Many of these were already listed in a five-year plan he presented a couple of years ago.

Black said the department needs to add two court services officers since the Ogeechee Circuit Superior Court has added three judges, counting the two Juvenile Court judges plus the one new regular Superior Court judge in the previous three-judge circuit.

A new court services corporal would supervise the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office transport unit. The other proposed new court services deputy would augment  courthouse security for the Superior Court and Bulloch County State Court. That position could not be filled until Jan. 1, 2024 to spread out the budget impact.

To staff the existing jail and recently constructed but still unopened intake/medical building, the department seeks to add three detention officer positions July 1 and three more Jan.  1. Based on a Georgia Sheriff’s Association study done several years ago, the jail should have about 80 detention officers.  After starting out with 53 officers at the time of the study, the jail now has about 62 positions and so is about “halfway there,” Black said.

The sheriff is seeking to add just one patrol deputy position this year, plus one new school resource officer, who would serve at Brooklet Elementary School.

Toward staffing the jail medical facility, the department also seeks to add four certified nursing assistants through its medical services contractor.

The sheriff and chief deputy gave their presentation Wednesday afternoon immediately after a presentation on behalf of Bulloch County Correctional Institution – the county-owned prison that houses state inmates – by BCCI Warden Randy Tillman.

Tillman and Brown have a longer-range proposal for a shared Law Enforcement/Public Works Complex that would replace BCCI’s old building and also add facilities for the jail and potentially an inmate transitional center on the current jail and prison campus. Details of this will be reported in a future story.

No total cost numbers on the requests and plans of these or other departments were discussed during the retreat. But agency chiefs’ fiscal 2024 budget requests are due at the county finance office Friday, March 31.


‘Debriefing’ Tuesday

Meanwhile, the Board of Commissioners has a work session – an open, public meeting – for discussion of budget priorities set for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 28, in the Honey Bowen Building at 1 Max Lockwood Drive. County Manager Tom Couch said this will  serve as a “debriefing” after this week’s presentations.

“We’ll all be overwhelmed, but that  gives a few days  to digest and  absorb, and then the debriefing meeting, we hope, will be unlike years past more of a dialogue with the  commissioners to get more of their  reflections. …,” Couch said. “With the changes  that have  already  been going on in the community, that  are currently going on in the community and that are going to come,  they have to  refocus their thinking  and  try to trust in the staff more to deal with the little things so they can deal with the big things.”




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