BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – As state mandates continue to put pressure on Lee County Jail and county security staffing, Lee County Supervisors have approved adding six full-time correctional officers to the county staff.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the board voted unanimously to move from the current staff of 16 full-time and five part-time officers, to a staff of 22 full-time officers at additional cost to the county of approximately $153,000. The move will eliminate five part-time correctional officers and four part-time courthouse security officers.
County Budget Director Cindy Renstrom said the department over the past two years has increased revenues by more than $200,000 annually and last year close to $300,000 in part by housing inmates from other counties. Those increased revenues in the past have gone into the county’s general basic account and not into the sheriff’s budget.
After hearing that the jail has been generating enough additional revenue to pay for the new officers, Supervisor Rich Harlow, moved to approve the staffing changes.
Lee County Chief Deputy Will Conlee said it’s been very difficult to keep the part-time staff intact. He said the county pays for the initial training for the officers and then they go somewhere else for a full-time position. That dynamic has caused an increase in overtime costs of about $50,000 annually.
Lee County Jail Administrator John Canida said the move won’t completely eliminate overtime, but will substantially reduce the overtime burden.
Conlee said since 2017 the department has hired 15 part-time employees most of whom have moved on to other positions and only three remain. The cycle of rehiring requires retraining which has saddled the department with an additional $53,000 over that same time frame.
He said three current part-time officers will move into the full time positions and the department will be looking to hire three more full-time officers. This will provide 20 full-time officers to the jail and two full-time to security.
Supervisor Gary Folluo said he believes all the officers should be full-time.
“It’s an awful lot to ask of part-time people to be in that environment. For my part, they all should be full-time people,” Folluo said.
“The job is one of them that needs consistency and having full-time people you’re providing that.”
Canida said he was happy the supervisors saw the need for additional staff.
“It’ll help us tremendously. This has been a long time coming,” Canida said.
The Southeast Iowa Area Crime Commission, in 2017, recommended 20 full-time and five part-time officers for the county jail at an average inmate population of 68. The jail has been running with more than 70 inmates and is now temporarily prohibited from sending offenders on state warrants for processing to Iowa’s prison system due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the classification center.
Applications for the new full-time positions can be filled out at the sheriff’s office or online at the county’s website at www.leecounty.org. Canida said no applications submitted over social media will be considered.
In other action, supervisors;
• received a bid for a new jail camera system in the amount of $320,715 from Mohrfeld Electric. The bid was the only bid received and was about $100,000 over estimates. A review of the bid was recommended.
• waived property taxes on two properties, one at Lincoln Ridge in Keokuk owned by the county, and a city owned property at 601 Blondeau in Keokuk.
• waived a requirement for the new Ambulance Director to live within Lee County.