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Jefferson County will add five corrections officers over next two years

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Jefferson County will be required to add five corrections officers at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building over the next two years to comply with a state Commission of Correction staffing analysis released last week.

The county will have to create two new supervisory positions, a second-in-command to jail administrator Lt. Kristopher M. Spencer and a corrections sergeant, as well as three additional corrections officers to meet the commission’s specifications.

The two supervisory positions will be filled by promotions this year, according to Deputy County Administrator Michael E. Kaskan.

Those promotions will leave vacant two corrections officer positions that will be filled with new hires, Mr. Kaskan said.

The money for the new positions this year will come from funds set aside for outboarding inmates, he said.

The commission is permitting the county to phase in the hiring; after the two supervisory positions are added this year, three corrections officers will be added in 2015.

“The compromise is we’re going to hire two this year and three next year,” said Jefferson County Legislator Philip N. Reed, R-Fishers Landing, chairman of the board’s General Services Committee, which oversees the jail.

“We’re mandated to have a jail. They can come in and make us adjust our staffing levels,” Mr. Reed said.

Commission officials visited Jefferson County and met with Sheriff’s Department staff in the fall and with Sheriff’s Department staff and staff from the county administrator’s office in January to review their findings.

A review was last conducted about 10 years ago, Mr. Kaskan said.

It was during the January visit that the commission officials identified a discrepancy in how individuals arrested on suspicion of committing crimes by Watertown city police were being held in the Jefferson County jail prior to their arraignment hearings.

City and county officials still are sorting through that issue, which hinges on an esoteric legal classification that prohibits suspects arrested by city police from being in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department, despite a long-standing intermunicipal agreement between the two entities.

Spokeswoman Janine Kava said in an email that commission officials examine every aspect of a jail’s operation to determine staffing levels, including the fact that the facility needs to be operational “24/7/365” as well as “the services it provides, the size and nature of its population, the number of posts, the union contract and benefits provided, such as sick leave, vacation time, etc.”

“The commission then uses a complex formula, taking all of the things noted above, to determine staffing, with the goal of ensuring that the staffing allows the facility to be run effectively, efficiently and safely,” Ms. Kava said.

The Jefferson County Board of Legislators General Services Committee will discuss the resolution to add the positions Tuesday night.

According to the resolution, the county will withdraw $70,000 from the outboarding fund and put the money toward creating the two supervisory positions this year.

Adding the three corrections officer positions in 2015 could put the county in a difficult position financially, according to Legislator Scott A. Gray, chairman of the board’s Finance and Rules Committee.

“It’s going to put us in a very difficult position with the tax cap,” he said.

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