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Douglas County to consider bonuses for jailers, sergeants

The bonus pay targets recruitment and retention as the jail administration continues to struggle to fill its ranks.

Government Center in Superior.
Government Center Boardroom, Superior, Wisconsin. (Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram)
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

Douglas County officials are considering a new program in their efforts to hire and retain staff in the jail.

The public safety committee approved a policy Thursday, Dec. 30, to create a jailer recruitment and retention sign-on bonus program.

Under the proposal, jailers could receive up to $4,200 in additional pay if they remain employed by the county for two years. Bonus pay would be paid out periodically in increasing amounts over the course of two years.

However, people hired under the program would be required to repay bonuses if they fail to complete two years of continuous employment, whether they leave by resignation or termination.

County administrator Ann Doucette said employees of the jail, which includes jailers and jail sergeants, would be required to sign an agreement to return bonus pay if they come up short of the two-year mark.

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PREVIOUSLY:

Currently, the jail has 10 vacant positions, said jail Capt. Tyler Edwards. Another will soon be added to the list as Edwards recently received a resignation notice from a member of the Douglas County Jail staff who is planning to work at the St. Louis County Jail.
“That was a kick in the knees,” Edwards said.

Despite a two-step wage increase approved by the Douglas County Board in October, jailers and jail sergeants can earn more in St. Louis and Carlton counties in Minnesota.

In St. Louis County, where jail staff is represented by a union, corrections officers are paid anywhere from $23.51 to start to $33.39 if they proceed through the 15 wage steps. Jail sergeants earn between $26.18 to $37.41 per hour, according to the union contract.

Carlton County pays its correctional officers $23.84-$29.94 hourly, and jail sergeants’ pay range is $31.23-$39.80, according to Gary Jackson, Carlton County human resources manager.

“Law enforcement wage scales contain a 1% increase at five years and another 1% increase at 10 years in addition to the normal annual progression steps,” Jackson said.

Douglas County, by comparison, pays jailers $22.11-$25.09 and jail sergeants $25.47-$28.91 after the increase in October.

Supervisor Rosemary Lear questioned who would be eligible, then calculated the cost to the county to be $72,000 for those eligible staff members.

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Jail staff that wouldn’t be eligible for the bonus program include the jail captain, lieutenant, program coordinator and office service supervisor.

Clerk of Courts Michele Wick questioned why the jail is getting the special consideration when other county departments are struggling to fill positions. She reported a vacancy in her department.

Communication center manager Danielle Miller reported that the 911 call center has been short staffed for three months, and is down seven of 14 positions currently. She said to encourage people to stay, she’s been hiring at a higher step and increased pay for trainers from $1 to $3 per hour.

Doucette said officials are responding to a crisis in the jail that could force Douglas County to house its inmates in other facilities. She said the bonus program will be looked at every six months.

If the program is terminated, individuals already enrolled in the program would still receive the bonus pay.

The Douglas County Board will consider the bonus program at its Jan. 20 meeting.

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