By Greg Bird
The McCreary County fiscal Court approved a contract with the Knox County Jail to begin housing prisoners at the new facility in Barbourville Thursday night during their February meeting.
While the decision to make the change from the Leslie County Jail, where most McCreary County prisoners have been housed for several years, was pretty straight forward – the move raised some questions on how to pay transport officers.
The contract was approved by a 5-0 vote, with a provision to include language in the document indicating the contract would have a 1-year effective range. Judge Greene stated he believed that language was omitted by mistake, and would contact Knox County officials to have it included before signing.
The new details on the contract were finalized this week and the paperwork signed Tuesday.
With the contract signed, McCreary County prisoners currently housed in Leslie County will soon be transferred to the new Knox facility. Judge Executive Jimmie Greene said he and Jailer Jessie Hatfield are working with Leslie County Jailer Danny Clark to make arrangements for the move and the transfer should be completed within the next week or so.
The contract with the facility will keep the rate of daily housing for each inmate at $30 per day, the same rate currently paid to Leslie County. That rate practically ensures moving the prisoners will not incur any additional costs to the County for housing.
And, as the facility is closer to the County, it could actually save money due to lower fuel and maintenance costs. It would also be more convenient for local families to visit relatives in the center.
The closer proximity of the jail raised an issue over how much transport officers get paid from at least one Magistrate.
Magistrate Roger Phillips questioned the need to keep the pay for transport officers the same as before with the new arrangement.
Currently transport officers are paid $54 for each trip to a jail facility. The rate is calculated at $13.50 per hour for a four-hour shift. The officers are also paid for two hours of work if they come in and take a bond payment from a prisoner, alleviating the need for a transport.
Phillips stated he felt the new location would shave off at least an hour from each trip, prompting the need to look at reworking the pay schedule. “If we change (jails), we need to look at a change (in pay),” Phillips said. “I can’t see paying them four hours for three hours of work.”
Jailer Jessie Hatfield said if the pay were to be reduced, he would have a difficult time finding people who were willing to work. He is already faced with a staffing issue, and fears no one would want to take the job for little pay.
“No one’s going to want to wait all day at home for just three hours of pay,” he said.
Judge Executive Greene said a new pay scale may have to be looked at and he hoped a compromise could be reached to satisfy both parties.
Jailer Jessie Hatfield was also awarded a cost of living increase on his annual salary of 2.3 percent. The increase amounts to about $542.21 of pay per year, bringing his salary to about $29,079 annually.
Since the Jailer is acting as Chief Transport Officer and is an elected official, the only raise available to Hatfield was the CPI. Only when the position begins a new term of office after an election can the Fiscal Court elect to provide a more significant salary increase.
In other Fiscal Court actions Thursday:
The Court opened and accepted a bid from Hinkle Engineering to perform road repairs on Beach Grove Road and Corder Flats Road due to recent flooding. The bids match the amount FEMA has granted the County in funding for repairs, but the cost will come down as the County will perform it’s own excavating as part of the local match requirements.
In related news, the Fiscal Court approved hiring Tony Kidd as the new County Road Supervisor at a pay rate of $15.55 per hour. Kidd will be replacing Roger Moore, who is retiring. Moore will stay on through the end of March to help train his replacement.
The Court approved a resolution supporting a grant application for McCreary County Sheriff Randy Waters to purchase a new cruiser.
Brenda Blevins, the County’s ABC Commissioner, informed the Court that eight businesses have submitted applications to sell alcohol to date, and $2,650 has been generated in revenue from the applications.
The next regular scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on Thursday, March 12 at 6:00 p.m.