Jailer says PT employees will save county money

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Will part-time employees at the Grant County Detention Center save the county money?
Grant County Jailer Terry Peeples says yes.

“This works at other facilities,” Peeples said. “I think it’ll work here. We have to weed out the part-time employees who want to be here and those who are just desperately looking for a job.”

In a report Peeples submitted to the Grant County Fiscal Court, he estimates that he’s already saved the county $360,000 with part-time employees because they don’t receive benefits. He acknowledged that it took staff time to sort through resumes and conduct interviews, but he believed the cost savings offset those inconveniences.

Magistrates questioned Peeples about part-time versus full-time employees after being asked during recent court meetings to approve several part-time employees.

At the Aug. 1 fiscal court meeting, magistrates approved hiring nine new part-time employees and moving two part-time employees to full time status.

At the Aug. 15 fiscal court meeting, the court approved hiring 10 new part-time employees and moving one from part-time to full time.

“I’ve been in business a long time and I know how difficult it is to get and keep employees, especially for $10.50 per hour,” said Dick Austin, magistrate of the 3rd district.

Because the court approves the hires, doesn’t mean those individuals are actually hired.

Peeples said of 10 candidates, about a third are actually hired and stay with the detention center.

Peeples said many jails in the state use part-time employees and he’d like to give the program a chance.

“You can’t scrap the program though, at least, this fiscal year to see if it works,” Peeples said. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll be the first to admit I’m wrong.”

The jail now has 60 employees, of those 20 are part-time. Peeples said it his policy to promote part-time to full-time status as opposed to hiring full-time employees.

“This will be ongoing so that we maintain a total of 60 deputies,” Peeples said.

One of the concerns of the magistrates was the turnover rate for employees, even the new hires, at the jail, since Peeples took office on Jan. 3, 2011.

“When I came in we raised the standards, especially of our deputies. We’re not going to lower our standards so they can either comply or seek other employment,” Peeples said.

Whether or not potential candidates from Grant County were given more consideration than those living elsewhere was also discussed.

“Most are not from Grant County and I’d like to see more from Grant County,” said Bobby Young, magistrate of the 1st district.

“We’d like to hire Grant County people but we hire the most qualified,” Peeples said. “I understand what you’re saying that it’s harder for someone to travel here for a part-time job than someone who lives down the road.”

Young said he understood that some of the new hires worked one day and quit.

“You’re right,” Peeples said. “We hired two part-time employees who had a corrections background and they didn’t last a day.”

Peeples said he prefers to hire candidates with a military or law enforcement background.

“We are looking for someone with a good work history, who is 18 or older and healthy. We don’t discriminate against anyone,” Peeples said. “We owe it to the county to hire the best qualified people we can find.”

Deputy jailers are required to have 16 hours of training each year.

Peeples said new hires are given classroom training, as well as they spend 16 hours working the floor and are then are evaluated, but all employees start as part-time.

“That way it doesn’t matter whether I know you or not. There’s no favoritism,” Peeples said.