Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Sheriff's request tabled


October 18, 2017

The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s request to go ahead with the process of hiring six people was tabled by the Sweetwater County Commissioners Tuesday.

After a lengthy discussion, the Commissioners voted unanimously, 4-0, to table Sheriff Mike Lowell’s request to start the process for hiring two court security officers, two control room workers and two detention officers. Commissioner Randy Wendling was absent for this portion of the meeting due to another commitment.

The Commissioners asked Lowell to meet with Garry McLean, the county’s human resources director, to go over what the proposed staffing plan was for the new justice center when it was discussed a few years ago, which was prior to Lowell being elected. Both Lowell and McLean agreed to meet. McLean was employed when the original plan for the justice center was proposed and said he could resurrect the original documents.

“The justice center isn’t completed yet,” Commissioner Wally Johnson said.

Johnson said the last completion date estimates he received was either February or March.

The longer the county can keep from hiring those positions is a savings to the county. Johnson said when the justice center was first proposed it was going to help save the county money and now there’s talk of increasing personnel.

Since there were three different requests, the Commissioners looked at them separately.

First, they looked at the two court security positions Lowell requested. At district court there are four court security officers, two at the entrance of the building and one at each district court, which houses two district court judges and one circuit court judge.

With the opening of the justice center, which will house the two circuit court judges, it will change how many court security officers the county will need, Lowell explained.

“I think the business is going to change,” he said.

Lowell is anticipating that once the new justice center opens, both circuit court judges will increase their courtroom times. Currently, they are scheduling around each other.

He said the reason he is asking for permission to start the hiring process now is because it could take him four to five months to hire certified employees for those two positions.

“I would like to hire people that are experienced, 15 to 20 years, good written skills good verbal skills, who know when to turn it on, turn and off and side step it. That’s not going to happen,” Lowell said.

“I don’t feel that comfortable even questioning it,” Commission Chairman Reid West said.

West said he knows Lowell is an elected public official, but due to budget issues and constraints the question might come up as to why the county’s paying top dollar for court security.

Lowell said he provided numbers with what he feels he needs to hire.

“If you want to reduce those numbers. I’m going to live with it whatever they are...” Lowell said. “I’m not going to sit here and lie to you in a public forum.”

Next, they looked at the two control worker requests. Lowell said they control workers have numerous responsibilities, including watching more than 170 cameras around the entire complex. It’s currently set up for two people to monitor foot traffic in and out of the building and vehicle traffic, including deliveries.

As for the detention officers, Lowell said they has more people take early retirement incentive than expected, which was 11. In addition to that, one detention officer quit.

The commissioners wanted to know what the bear minimum was for the detention center to run.

“I’m operating at the bare minimum now,” Lowell said.

Whenever someone is out sick or injured, Lowell is using overtime pay to cover it, which is eating up his special events budget. He said he’ll cut where he needs to balance that budget.

Commissioner West said sometimes it’s cheaper to pay that overtime than to hire an additional person.

“I think Sheriff Lowell feels he’s asking for the bear minimum,” West said.

After additional discussion, the Commissioners asked McLean and Lowell to come back with firm numbers on how many people the sheriff’s department needs. McLean said he can look at the original plan with Lowell and see what is legally required to staff that facility.


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