Newly installed County Judge Darryl Mahoney said the Garland County Detention Center needs to improve staff retention before it considers an operational expansion.
He's hopeful the consulting firm the county contracted prior to the jail's June 2015 opening can help reduce turnover at the $42 million facility. The quorum court appropriated $45,000 from the jail fund's 2019 budget for Voorhis Associates Inc. to review operations and make suggestions.
Recommendations the Colorado firm provided as part of its $1.2 million consultation included the one-time bonus the county implemented in 2015 for the sheriff's department's uniformed detention and enforcement personnel. The 2.5-percent bonus was awarded for every year of service up to 10 years in the position held when the raise took effect.
"A lot of people are under the perception that this firm is coming here to find money savings," Mahoney, the former District 12 justice of the peace who was sworn in as county executive at the first of the year, told the Garland County Tea Party Wednesday. "In my mind, they're coming in here to understand why we can't keep employees out there. To understand why we can never have a full staff. To understand why there's so much turnover. I would like to get that straightened out first."
Six of the facility's eight housing units are in operation, but Mahoney said it's unwise to open more in light of the difficulty the jail has had staffing its more than 80 uniformed positions.
"I don't see any way to open more pods in 2019," he said. "The biggest challenge that I think we've got out there is keeping a staff. Every year for the past two years, there's been $500,000 left in personnel because we cannot fill the positions that we have.
"Even though I want the criminal element gone, and I want to start a reduction in crime in Garland County, I'm not going to put our people at risk out there by opening another pod we can't staff. If you can't handle the ones you've got open now, do not open another one. It's just asking for more trouble."
Mahoney said maintaining a full staff or adding more positions would require a general fund transfer, as the $7.5 million budgeted for 2019 operations will surpass the $6.6 million in projected annual revenue from the three-eighths cent countywide sales tax voters approved in 2011 to support the jail fund.
Finding savings in general fund-supported departments and offices will be needed to offset the transfer, he said. The solid waste fund is also being looked at, he said. It receives 20 percent of the revenue from the half-cent sales tax the county levies for the landfill and general fund, with the latter receiving 80 percent.
Mahoney said the county may be able to realize savings from the residential trash collection contract it will put out for bid this year, freeing up sales tax money to expand jail operations. Jail officials have said it would cost more than $500,000 a year to open another unit.
"The only thing I can see is to try to start making better use of the money we use elsewhere in the county," he said. "The general fund will have to supplement somewhat when we get to the point where we can staff (the jail). I feel like the consulting firm is going to do more to tell us how to stop the turnover of employees rather than show us any shortfalls in income."
Mahoney said he'd be opposed to raising revenue for the jail through a millage increase that's not voted on by the public. Quorum courts have the authority to unilaterally levy up to 5 mills for the general fund. Garland County levies 1.2 mills.
"If there's any taxation, it's going to be voted on by the people," he said. "When I was on the quorum court, they tried to impose 2 mills back in 2007. I fought it and beat it and will do the same today. I don't want any taxation on anybody unless they say they wanted it."
Local on 01/11/2019
Print Headline: County judge talks jail, staffing