The Warren County Board of Commissioners must decide how to address the Warren County Sheriff’s Office request for two new detention center positions when two existing positions are currently vacant before they can vote on the finalized budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

In his budget recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year, Warren County Manager Vincent Jones includes a total of $43,982 for funding the two new positions for a half fiscal year. The new positions would primarily be dedicated to transporting detainees to obtain needed services.

During the discussion, board chairman Tare “T” Davis asked Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams why it was difficult to fill two current vacancies at the detention center. Williams replied that it is hard for small counties like Warren to compete with salaries offered by more urban neighboring counties, such as Franklin and Wake.

Commissioner Jennifer Pierce asked whether any of the positions could be managed by part-time employees. Williams gave a flat “no,” saying that officers in supervisory positions must often fill in on their days off so that shifts can be fully staffed for both work at the detention center and transportation needs. He said that some officers had considered quitting their jobs due to the strain, and that the new positions he is asking for would be filling a basic need so that supervisory officers can return to their primary duties.

“We are overworking our employees,” Williams said. “Anytime you take away from the basic (needs), there is a problem.”

Davis repeated a question he made to the sheriff earlier in the discussion.

“You want two new positions, but you have a hard time filling (the vacant) positions,” he asked.

Williams suggested that the two new positions would be easier to fill because they would primarily focus on transporting inmates, meaning they would include time outside the detention center setting. The vacant positions involve work primarily at the center.

Detention Center Chief Administrator Shawn Bridges said that, at a minimum, there must be three officers on each shift at the center.  He hopes that the two vacant positions can be filled soon to help alleviate the extra workload on supervisory officers. Bridges said that the two new positions are needed as well because transporting detainees currently falls on just two people.

Commissioners agreed that more law enforcement officers are needed. However, the sheriff also described a statewide shortage of people wanting to enter the field on top of problems that smaller counties often face in offering salaries competitive with law enforcement agencies in other areas of the state and at the state level, such as the N.C. Highway Patrol.

The proposed budget also includes $57,667 for a community support officer for the Warren County Sheriff’s office. The position, currently grant funded, would focus on duties that include training law enforcement officers what to do in situations in which someone is having a mental health crisis. The grant allows for a partnership between the sheriff’s office and Warren County Health Department.

Warren County Health Director Margaret Brake said that the position is needed in order to help law enforcement officers know what to do when someone has not committed a crime, but needs mental health services.

She told the board that she would apply for a grant extension beyond its initial year, which will end next month. 

Jones explained that if grant funding ended on June 30, the sheriff’s office would utilize funds from the two vacant positions in order to continue the position. He recommended including funding for the position in the budget so that the sheriff’s office would have funds for the two vacant positions if they are filled.

Commissioners are expected to reconsider these unresolved funding issues on June 3, when the board will meet for a budget public hearing at 6 p.m. at the Warren County Armory Civic Center, 501 U.S. Hwy. 158-business east, Warrenton.

 

Other business

In other budget discussion, the board:

  • Reached a consensus to move $5,000 allocated for the annual County Government Day celebration from the Warren County Parks and Recreation budget to contingency, where it will be designated for the event to be used when needed. Discussion also involved holding a county festival instead of County Government Day and having an information booth about county services at other local festivals.
  • Discussed a county employee salary study proposed for the next fiscal year with the suggestion of placing additional emphasis on how long-term employees move up their salary scale over time.
  • Heard a suggestion from Pierce that the county study employee overtime hours to determine where additional staff positions are needed. Jones said that he would add the topic to the agenda of an upcoming work session. 

The board is scheduled to adopt the proposed budget during a budget special meeting at 6 p.m. on June 19 at the Armory Civic Center. The vote will be followed by the board’s regular work session.

The new fiscal year will begin on July 1.