By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Commissioners approve juvenile probation position


December 13, 2017

Despite the numbers not adding up, the Sweetwater County Commissioners approved a motion to restaff a clerical position in Juvenile Probation.

With a four-one vote, the motion to restaff the position was passed. Commissioner John Kolb was the only one voting no stating if the numbers don’t add up, he can’t support the motion.

According to Karin Kelly, Sweetwater County Juvenile Probation director, the request was being made after the department lost three employees. The prior secretary and the Driving Under the Influence supervised probation case manager both accepted the voluntary separation program the county offered, while a grant-funded employee left due to lack of grant funds needed to pay the position.

With these three leaving, it made a 23.4 percent reduction in the budget from $502,724 in fiscal year 2016-17, to $385,036 for fiscal year 2017-18 year.

“There are large amounts of time when no one’s in the office,” Kelly said.

With only five employees and one grant employee working through an average of 100-to-120 cases per month, the department is getting behind. Kelly said her department is not like a normal office, they are out meeting with clients at schools, attending court hearings and meeting with those working with the juveniles.

She said a lot of the duties require them to prepare things for court by a certain time, but with the limited staff the department sometimes fails to meet those deadlines.

Third District Court Judge Nena James attended to speak in favor of adding a new person to the important department.

She said it is a trickle effect when the probation office can’t meet the deadlines it puts the court behind.

James spoke highly of the office and knows the reason they aren’t meeting the deadlines isn’t because they aren’t working hard, it’s because they need another person.

The commissioners didn’t seem to have a problem with adding another person to the department, but they did have a problem with the numbers not adding up.

Since a new person is going to be hired at $68,926 a year for salary and benefits, which is less than the previous employee, the commissioners couldn’t understand why the budget didn’t reflect that. In fact, it increases the budget.

“Why is the overall budget, on an annualized basis, greater than the one in 2017?” Chairman Reid West asked.

“I don’t have an answer,” Kelly said.

Garry McLean said that although the salary is much less, the benefits could be more.

Kelly said they haven’t increased any programs or anything, nor has anyone been added to the staff.

“Did you not say you reduced your head count by three people,” Commissioner Wally Johnson asked.

They went over the employees who had left again, but couldn’t find the discrepancy in the funds. Even though Commissioners Randy Wendling, Johnson, West and Don Van Matre were comfortable restaffing the position with the numbers off, Kolb wasn’t.

All of the commissioners agreed that the numbers will need to be fixed before the next budget is approved.


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