Per request, Correctional Center Major Bobby Reed gave information to the Bourbon County Commission Tuesday morning concerning the wages of the different positions at the Sheriff’s Office as compared to surrounding counties.
In recent weeks, new Commission Chairperson Lynne Oharah had asked Reed for the report, after hearing that the local Sheriff’s Office had lost deputies and staff to other counties and departments because of the low wages.
Reed reached out to six counties for the information, including Linn, Crawford, Neosho, Allen, Anderson and Cherokee counties. When compared to these counties with similar demographics, Bourbon County frequently ranked below average.
“In my opinion, we are low,” Reed said of the wages, while Sheriff Bill Martin pointed out most of the staff are 25-30 percent underpaid compared to other similar positions, while some are as much as 80 percent behind.
Since 2011, Reed said the correctional office, which has 19 staff at any given point, has lost about 44 people because of the non-competitive wages. Undersheriff Ben Cole said the Sheriff’s Office has lost a total of at least 33 employees in that same time, with many of them citing pay as the reason.
Reed and Cole both said retention is a problem at the Sheriff’s Office, as deputies come for training and experience, only to move on to a county or position with higher pay.
“We are basically a training ground that we’re paying for,” Cole said, with training often costing at least $3,500 per officer.
Director of Security Alvin Metcalf said there are also intangible, negative aspects to that attrition and turnover as well, including low morale, lack of experience and the question of safety as deputies have to regularly get accustomed to new fellow deputies.
Oharah said some of the Sheriff’s Office positions no longer compete even with Walmart and other businesses in Bourbon County, with benefits not adding much incentive. The commissioners said they will continue to consider ways they can support the Sheriff’s and Correctional departments to help attract quality deputies.
“This is not an easy process,” county attorney Justin Meeks said. “It can’t happen overnight.”
See below for comparisons of the actual hourly rate of certain positions according to a state-wide study done in 2015.
Undersheriff: Bourbon $16.57, Neosho $23.40, Allen $21.35, Anderson $18.58, Cherokee $18.77
Deputy Sheriff: Bourbon $13.15, Neosho $19.03, Allen $15.30, Anderson $15.92, Cherokee County $10.25
Correctional Center Supervisors: Bourbon $12.21, Allen $18.83, Cherokee $10.50, Crawford $17.86
Corrections/Detention Officers: Bourbon $10.39, Neosho $12.02, Allen $10.50, Anderson $14.78, Cherokee $10.50