Sheriff gets OK to pay overtime, hire more deputies

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 8/13/20

HERMANN — In an effort to ease the staff shortage in the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department, the County Commission last week broke from its practice of not paying overtime and …

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Sheriff gets OK to pay overtime, hire more deputies

Posted

HERMANN — In an effort to ease the staff shortage in the Gasconade County Sheriff’s Department, the County Commission last week broke from its practice of not paying overtime and authorized the hiring of part-time deputies.

That decision came during a closed session as part of Thursday morning’s meeting at Owensville City Hall. The meeting had been requested a week earlier by Sheriff Mark A. Williams, who at that time told the Gasconade County Republican he presumed the discussion of the need for additional deputies would be handled in open session.

Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, announced the action taken in the closed portion when the administrative panel returned to open session. The Commission authorized Williams to hire full-time and part-time deputies to ease the manpower crunch, as well as approving overtime pay for the current deputies who have amassing extra hours because of the staff shortage.

The action regarding overtime is a departure from practice if not formal policy of not paying overtime to county government employees. The long-standing practice has been to give employees compensatory time off rather than pay overtime.

After the meeting, Miskel was clear that the decision to pay overtime to the sheriff’s deputies did not extend to employees of other county government departments. However, he did say the Commission would consider making overtime pay an option when it begins work on the county’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Budget work begins late in the year with a new operating budget being approved in January.

A week earlier, the Commission spoke with presumably two applicants for deputy sheriff positions, but no hiring decision was made at that time. Williams had said in an interview with the Republican earlier in that week that he had only a couple serious applicants for the several positions that have become vacant. Gasconade County, like other rural counties, are losing deputies to other law enforcement agencies that can offer better pay.

Voter turnout at 42 percent

In other matters taken up at Thursday’s session, County Clerk Lesa Lietzow called the nearly-42-percent Primary Election turnout “one of the highest primary turnouts I've ever had.” She credited what turned out to be a lopsided GOP primary race for sheriff as the main reason for the higher-than-expected turnout. Lietzow had predicted no more than a 35-percent turnout, expecting the vote to be held down somewhat by a lack of contested races and concern among voters of going to the polling places in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most wore face masks

Regarding the virus outbreak and the voters, while election judges remained masked during the entire 13-hour day, most of the voters arriving at the polls also wore masks. But of the considerable number of voters who did not wear masks, many of them were younger people — a group that national health officials say is showing an increased likelihood of contracting the virus.

Overall, Lietzow said Primary Election day was held with few glitches. “Things went well,” she said. “Three down, one to go,” she added, referring to November’s General Election day, which is expected to see a possibly significant uptick in turnout with voters casting ballots for president, governor and four other statewide offices.

CARES Act fund update

Reimbursement payments out of the county’s CARES Act funds were approved by the Commission. The Meramec Regional Planning Commission, which administers the county’s CARES Act fund, recommended approval of the requests of Gasconade County E-911 for $69,434 and the Owensville Parks & Recreation Department for $1,898. This was E-911’s second round of requests; an earlier reimbursement of $8,600 was recently approved by the Commission. The CARES Act money — $1.725 million allocated to Gasconade County — is designed to reimburse local government agencies for their costs in battling the coronavirus.

Sounding an alarm

Lietzow reported that her office still is collecting bills associated with what is believed to be a lightning strike on the courthouse late last month. One thing county officials have learned from that hit is that the building’s fire alarm system needs to be replaced because of its age. The alarms were sounding when employees arrived at the courthouse the morning after the lightning strike.

Lietzow said a check of the system showed the alarms to be little more than “wall decorations.” An earlier discussion with the alarm company indicated a cost of nearly $4,000 to upgrade the existing system.

“The parts are obsolete,” Lietzow noted.

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