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Sheriff asks for pay hikes

November 30, 1999|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades on Tuesday asked the County Commissioners for pay hikes ranging from approximately $7,200 to $10,000 for entry-level deputies and correctional officers, saying qualified employees are being lured away by higher salaries elsewhere.

Forty-two deputies and correctional officers left the Sheriff's Department over the last four years, he said. With few qualified people applying for jobs, he said the department has a crisis in recruiting and retaining employees.

"We have a problem," Mades said. "Not me, we."

Mades asked the County Commissioners to approve starting salaries of $40,000 a year for patrol and judicial deputies, up from the current salary of $29,990, and $34,982 for correctional officers, up from the current salary of $27,770.

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He also asked for salary adjustments for current employees and a separate pay scale for the Sheriff's Department.

The department employs 10 or 11 judicial deputies, 70 to 74 patrol deputies and 85 to 90 correctional officers, Mades said by phone Tuesday night.

The higher starting salaries and adjustments would cost $1.9 million, Mades said.

Human Resources Director David Hankinson said Frederick County, Md., starts its deputies at $45,000 a year, while Winchester, Va., pays $38,000 a year. After two years, deputies in Jefferson County, W.Va., earn $38,395 and deputies in Berkeley County, W.Va., earn $38,000, he said.

"We're just not competitive with our neighboring jurisdictions," Hankinson said.

The commissioners did not discuss Mades' request Tuesday because of time constraints, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said. He said the matter likely would be revisited during the commissioners' budget process.

"The problem is so severe that I have grave concerns about our ability to recruit and retain ...," Col. Douglas Mullendore said.

"If I were an employee where would I go? Not to Washington County," Mullendore said.

Mades said most of the employees who left the department over the last four years stayed in the public safety field but took jobs in other jurisdictions that paid more. The turnover cost the county $1.74 million in training and other related costs.

Recently, the department received 36 applications for four open deputy positions, Mullendore said

After written and oral exams, physical fitness tests and background checks, just four of the 36 applicants were qualified, Mullendore said. One applicant took a higher-paying job, leaving three qualified candidates, he said. They are in training at the Western Maryland Police Academy.

The Washington County Detention Center had a similar problem with finding qualified applicants, he said.

Commissioner John C. Munson said by phone Tuesday he supports pay increases for the Sheriff's Department and that the county had no choice but to raise the salaries.

"How do you live on $29,000 a year to start out?" Munson said. "I don't like spending any money at all, but you have to in this situation."

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