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Raises approved for jail personnel

By John Miller, 03/15/23 10:53 AM

PRESCOTT – Employees at the Nevada County Jail will be getting $2 an hour raises starting on the next pay period.

This was approved at the March meeting of the Nevada County Quorum Court Tuesday evening. Nevada County Sheriff Danny Martin told the court the jail’s employees are concerned about inflation as they make $11.25 an hour, which is no money these days, especially when trying to raise a family. He said if they don’t get a raise, the county will lose them as they look for better paying jobs and if they start walking out, it could be dangerous for the county.

Martin pointed out what happened in Columbia County when only two people were working the jail and one was overpowered by inmates. Should employees be lost at the NC Jail, he said, he would start sending inmates back where they came from and tell the state to come and get its prisoners. At this time, he continued, there are 16 jailers, which is no problem and there are supposed to be four working per shift.

The requested raises, he said would be for jailers, dispatchers and deputies. There are currently four dispatchers, three deputies, a chief deputy and an investigator.

Nevada County Judge Mike Otwell said he and Nevada County 911 Coordinator Dale Booker have talked and the 911 system is supposed to be getting money in which could cover raises for the dispatchers, leaving it to the county to pay for the deputies and jailers.

With 17 working detention, five dispatchers and five deputies, Martin said, that would come to an additional $164,000 a year in salaries with the raises, which is why it’s important to keep the inmate count up. Money paid to the county for housing inmates from elsewhere could be used to help fund the raises. Martin said if the dispatchers are paid with the 911 money it would be $31,000 less. On the other hand, he continued, if the county sends inmates home, it stands to lose $270,000 a year. Martin said the inmate population is back where it was with more than 60 inmates being held daily. He added the state increased what it pays for inmate housing to $42 per head per day.

Martin talked about how the NCSO works with the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office (EDO) to find grants for equipment. He said the NCSO has received more than $100,000 in grants to date and has bought things like tasers, vehicle cameras, four active shooter trauma kits, AWIN radios and recently was awarded a grant for $3,000 for road strips.

Next up was a discussion about the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Nevada County Treasurer Ricky Reyenga said the funds were initially placed in one fund, but need to be moved to another and appropriated so they can be spent. The $1.2 million, he added, can be used to buy equipment. By allocating the money and putting it in the budget, he continued, the county won’t have to fill out a lot of forms.

Otwell said if the county goes through Sourcewell, it can bypass the bid process. Sourcewell, he added, guarantees the lowest price.

The court was told one piece of equipment had already been delivered and another will be here in six weeks, both purchases were made through Sourcewell, with $150,000 spent on a trackhoe and $192,000 to be used for a knucklebuster. The gradeall the court approved buying at its February meeting won’t be purchased, and a vote to rescind the previous approval was made, with another vote to purchase the knucklebuster.

Otwell asked the court for permission to buy equipment without the court’s approval. At the time, the county judge was limited to being able to spend $40,000 without approval. However, the court amended this and now allows the judge to spend up to $100,000 without a vote by the court.

The county was looking at buying a new 2023 dump truck for $153,000, but Otwell said he went to Conway and found a 1999 model with 500,000 miles that’s had its motor rebuild and is clean for $77,600. He told the court another county judge only buys equipment from this seller. All of these purchases will be coming out of ARPA funds, including buying a new dozer for the landfill. The new dozer must have an enclosed cab with heat and air conditioning. A new one, he said would cost $575,000, but he found one for $314,000 from Caterpillar. He added the city will help with the purchase as there’s an interlocal agreement with the city paying 56 percent and the county paying 44 percent. However, Otwell will have to speak with Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver before the dozer can be bought.

Changing gears, Otwell said he’s been talking to the Eighth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney about county equipment on private property. This was tabled until the legality can be determined.

Then came the topic of log trucks destroying county roads. Otwell said there’s a two-mile stretch of road that will cost $15,000 to repair because of the damage done by log trucks. He told the court residents shouldn’t be paying for these repairs and he’s looking into the legalities of making logging companies pay. When these companies get a permit, he and the road foreman will take a video of the roads and bridges in the area before work begins, and return after the work is done for a second inspection. The logging companies will be required to pay for the damage done. Otwell said some have to be chased down and made get a permit, but there are logging companies that cooperate.

He also said the county is looking for a monitoring system for all of its vehicles and equipment so the location can be determined as needed.

Kathryn Kirkham, 4H coordinator with the Nevada County Extension Service, told about hosting a Get Real program at Prescott High School, informing the court this program will also be taken to Nevada. This program helps students understand how to budget as they’re given a set amount and must make payments and purchases without going into the red. They also have to keep up with their spending.

Joyce Banks complained about trash not being picked up at her residence, claiming trash wasn’t being picked up at all in Reader. She was told the trash truck can’t go to her house because county equipment isn’t permitted on private property and the trash needs to be placed by the road.

She also complained about the NCSO saying her calls went ignored. Martin said she called during the ice storm while all deputies were working county roads to make sure motorists didn’t run into treed down across the roads. He added, her call was about a repairman at her house who’d gone out to get something from his vehicle and she wouldn’t let him back in. Martin said that wasn’t an emergency situation.