Officials debate jail staffing

The Moffat County Commissioners and the sheriff are locked in a debate over the number employees needed to run the public safety center jail. Those issues issues had the Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead and the Board of Commissioners searching for a feasible solution Tuesday.

There was a discrepancy in how many employees the two believe it would take to run the facility. The disagreement dates back to the Corriveau administration. Corriveau told the commissioners it would be possible to run the facility with three new employees.

Things have changed since then, and Grinstead believes more employees will be needed to run the facility safely and incorporate the new programs. These programs are the work release program and one that takes inmates from other counties and houses them until there is room at a state facility.

Grinstead wants nine new full-time employees to operate the facility and run the programs. The commissioners said the nine additional employees wouldn't be feasible under the 2001 budget.

Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said he has spoken with other counties that have built similar facilities and those facilities posed some risk to the budget.

"The single toughest issue is going to be keeping that jail in line financially," Dickinson said. "This is what I have heard from every county that has built one, that the personnel eats them alive."

Craig Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta said he is nervous about how much the jail facility will cost if it isn't properly staffed.

"My concern is a trickle-down effect," Vannatta said. "I can't put people in there if it isn't properly staffed. That means I'm going to have to have my people sitting and watching inmates, and that leaves me with a potentially dangerous situation."

A compromise ended the debate for the time being: More training for fewer employees will be the solution for the first year of the jail's operation.

Grinstead wanted nine new employees, six of which would operate the master control and wouldn't need to be certified detention officers.

Under the compromise, Grinstead will be able to hire five new jail employees, all of whom will be certified detention officers. The detention officer certification allows the entire staff to cover any position at the jail, making it more feasible to have a working staff in place during day-to-day operations and easier to schedule of time off.

The cost of employing a certified detention officer in place of a master control officer is $5,800 per year, per position.

Grinstead said that compromise would be adequate for the first year, but in the future he will come back to the commissioners and ask for additional resources for hiring more employees for the jail.

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