By Greg Bird
While the majority of Thursday’s meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court dealt with routine issues, the main topic of discussion wasn’t on the agenda, and could impact the future pay of Transport Officers.
Meeting in regular session, without public access due to COVID-19 restrictions enacted by Governor Andy Beshear, the meeting was broadcast on social media to ensure the citizens could be kept informed of County business. (It is available for viewing on the Voice’s Facebook page.)
The main topic of discussion came at the end of the meeting, transport officer pay.
Since the new arrangement with the Knox County Detention Center was put in place in February, Magistrate Roger Phillips has brought up the question of readjusting the pay for Transport Officers.
Under the current pay system, transport officers are paid $54 per trip, which breaks down to $13.50 per hour at four hours. They are offered $27 to take a bond payment and not transport.
Going to Knox County, instead of Leslie County, shaves off about an hour from the total transport time.
Phillips’ argument for reducing pay is the fact that a typical trip to the Knox jail only takes three hours – meaning the officers would be paid for an additional hour of work that was not performed.
During the other business section of the meeting, Magistrate Bill Hale brought up the pay scale for Transport Officers. The 1st District Magistrate said he had been examining the issue since it was first brought up two months ago by fellow Magistrate Roger Phillips, and said he felt there needed to be a change
“I’ve looked at the numbers, and I have to say I agree with Roger (Phillips),” Hale said.
Hale said he would be agreeable to paying $45 per trip ($15/hour for 3 hours), while also offering a flat rate of $45 for the transport officers to take bond payment from prisoners whenever possible – thus saving the trip and the County paying housing costs.
Phillips said the $45 was higher than he envisioned, but would be agreeable to such a proposal if it resulted in more bond payments being taken.
Hale, echoing a statement Phillips had made last month, said he was elected to be a steward of the taxpayers money, and wanted to cut costs when and where possible, while still being able to pay people for the work they performed.
“We want the prisoners to be bonded out,” Hale said. “We want to be fair to the transport officers, prisoner and the citizens.”
If a prisoner could afford to make a bond payment, a cash amount typically set by the court system as a promise to show up to court instead of going to jail, the County would save money in housing costs, which run $30 a day at the Knox facility.
Phillips had asked why more bonds weren’t being taken, and questioned if the officers were neglecting to do so due to the lesser pay.
Last month several transport officers confronted Phillips at the March meeting, saying a reduction in pay would result in less people doing the job. They also noted some transports take longer than four hours, due to unforeseen circumstances at the jail or Sheriff’s Office.
Both Phillips and Hale said they had no problem with paying officers for extra time if needed, but wanted to ensure the extra time was warranted.
Judge Greene noted all transport vehicles either now have tracking units installed, or will soon have them, so officials can monitor transfers to see actual time elapsed and the route taken. The units also have a camera system to record the trip for safety reasons.
Judge Greene asked the Magistrates to put together a proposal for a vote to bring before the Fiscal Court next month.
The next scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday, May 14 at 6:00 p.m.