Jail will hire more than 20

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By Calen McKinney

More than 20 employees will soon be hired and begin training to prepare for the opening of the Taylor County Detention Center.

Jailer Rick Benningfield addressed magistrates at last week's Fiscal Court meeting about the need to begin training jail employees.

Benningfield said the jail is expected to be finished by the end of next month, and Department of Corrections officials have told him that officers need to begin training as soon as possible.

He asked magistrates to allow four current transportation officers and another County employee to be promoted and transferred, respectively, to full-time jail positions and to begin training.

Magistrates approved the promotion of Sharon Spurling, Adam Burress, Barbara Gribbins and Tony Harris and the transfer of Taylor County Animal Shelter employee Jon Hawkins.

Benningfield said he has received about 200 applications for jail positions and he has conducted some interviews.

He also asked magistrates to allow him to hire up to 18 additional employees to begin training at Marion and Casey county jails. Magistrates approved that request.

County Treasurer Melissa Williams said the money for salaries will come from the $500,000 the County borrowed to pay for jail startup costs.

Benningfield said bids for food and medical services at the jail will be opened soon and a contract for inmate phone service has already been signed.

On behalf of the Detention Center Committee, magistrate James Jones told the Court that a community open house is being discussed to allow residents to tour the facility when it is completed.

On behalf of the Project Development Board, the Board overseeing the construction of the Taylor County Judicial Center, Jones said the building's cupola will be installed at the end of September and will be about 67 feet tall. He said workers will begin connecting the jail and judicial center in the next few weeks.

Magistrate Milford Lowe did not attend the meeting.

Also at the meeting:

- Rogers told magistrates that there is a shortage of employees and frequent turnover at the animal shelter and asked if they would allow Hawkins to remain a part-time shelter employee after he is transferred to the jail.

He said Hawkins could work as much as 36 hours a week as a part-time employee, though he wouldn't likely work that much. If magistrates didn't agree, he said, another employee would need to be hired.

Rogers said Hawkins' hours at the animal shelter would be overtime hours and the County would have to continue paying his retirement benefit. However, Rogers said, paying those costs would still total less than hiring a new animal shelter employee.

Magistrate Richard Phillips suggested that the County advertise the position. He also questioned whether Hawkins would be able to work full time for the jail in addition to part time at the shelter. Rogers said Hawkins is well-trained and will likely have a few days off each week after working 12-hour shifts at the jail.

Phillips, who cast the only "no" vote on allowing Hawkins to remain a part-time shelter employee, said he would like to advertise the position.

Magistrates also approved the temporary hire of shelter employee Jennifer Smith.

- A little more than $615,000 has been collected in occupational taxes. Since the Court's July meeting, $577,543.66 has been collected.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.