Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More employees needed to monitor new jail

Sheriff proposes to hire civilian employees

Express Staff Writer

In a presentation to the Blaine County Commission on Tuesday, Sheriff Walt Femling indicated that he may need two more employees to help with central control activities when the new county jail opens in July.

Femling said hiring "civilian personnel" rather than new sheriff's deputies would save taxpayers considerably. He said the new hires would likely work the day and swing shifts during the weekdays.

"You can get them at a cheaper rate," he said.

Femling said sheriff's deputies would be responsible for overseeing the remaining shifts.

Civilian employees hired to monitor central control functions of the new jail do not require the same expensive training as new sheriff's deputies, Femling said. He said the difference in training would not mean any difference in safety levels at the jail because "they're never touching an inmate."

County sheriff's deputies would still be solely responsible for working the main floor of the jail.

The primary responsibility of civilian personnel in the new jail would be to monitor things like control doors between secure inmate areas. Femling said the new employees would need to be hired by June so they were fully trained in time for the jail's anticipated opening a month later.

Hiring the new civilian employees during the current fiscal year would require a budget adjustment, Blaine County Administrator Mike McNees told commissioners.

Blaine County Commissioners agreed to discuss Femling's proposal and the possible budget adjustment at a future meeting.

In other county news:

- The County Commission listened to a presentation on the issue of childhood hunger in Blaine County by locally based organization The Hunger Coalition. The executive director of the coalition, Jeanne Liston, said up to one-third of all children enrolled in the Blaine County School District go to bed hungry each night. She said the coalition distributed about 24,000 pounds of food to local families in the past two years, the equivalent of 19,000 meals.

This summer, the coalition will be implementing a joint summer food program with the county school district, Liston told the commissioners.

"We're very excited about it," she said.

- The commissioners also discussed the possibility of conveying county-owned land in Hailey to the city for affordable housing purposes. Commissioner Larry Schoen said Idaho law allows county land to be leased for such purposes for no longer than five years, but allows cities to enter into such leases for as long as 99 years.

Before committing to a transfer, the commissioners indicated they will seek legal counsel from county Deputy Prosecutor Tim Graves.

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