Washington County Commissioners approved a pair of items in court today (Tuesday) in hopes of addressing a shortage of staff at the Washington County Jail.
The court approved a $2 increase in starting pay per hour for jail lieutenants, corrections officers and jail sergeants. It also approved an interlocal agreement to house Washington County inmates at the Waller County Jail.
Washington County Sheriff Otto Hanak said the jail is currently down eight out of 19 staff members at the jail who cover four shifts. He called the situation of limited staff having to watch approximately 95 inmates a “major security issue.”
Hanak said it is not an issue of overpopulation, rather that there are just not enough staff members to properly monitor the inmates there. He said this can create problems when continued COVID-19 restrictions combine with the fact that some of those inmates have been at the jail for a lengthy period of time.
Hanak noted that the county also has an inmate housing agreement with Grimes County, but said the distance to the Waller County Jail in Hempstead is more favorable than the Grimes County Jail in Anderson.
Commissioner Candice Bullock said the jail is in a “pretty frightening state,” adding that as jail staff put their lives at risk on the job, the county is putting them at risk by not trying to take steps to hire and attract more employees. Commissioner Joy Fuchs said this is “well overdue,” and that the county needs to do more.
With the rate changes approved by commissioners, the beginning per-hour salaries for jail lieutenants move from $22.05 to $24.05. Staff designated as corrections officer 1 will now be paid $16.48, compared to $14.48 previously. Meanwhile, staff designated as corrections officer 2 will receive $18.24, up from $16.24. The pay for jail sergeants will increase from $17.57 to $19.57.
Also at today’s meeting, commissioners:
- Recognized Edward Ortega for five years of services at the Washington County Jail. Joshua Parsons of EMS, Darren Kana of Road and Bridge, and Kelsey Knebel and Heather Snowden of E-911 were also set to be recognized, but they were not in attendance.
- Hired Travis Bader as a maintenance supervisor for the Washington County Expo at a starting salary of $21 per hour. The vote passed 4-1 with Commissioner Joy Fuchs voting against, citing concerns that the new employee would be making more than existing county employees and the previous maintenance supervisor at the facility.
- Approved advertising for requests for qualifications (RFQ) for jail medical services. A mandatory pre-bid meeting at the Washington County Jail will be held June 14th at 10 a.m. The deadline for contractors to submit questions is June 16th. Submissions for the RFQs are due June 21st at 9 a.m., and the court will consider awarding a contract on June 22nd. If a contract is awarded, there is a tentative transition and services start date of July 14th.
- Approved a contract for insurance between the county and the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County for a summer camp program hosted by the Washington County Historical Commission.
- Approved a Washington County Historical Commission youth history camp at the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.
- Gave approval to pay a change order for the EMS District 5 hangar.
- Rescinded agenda items 10 and 11 from commissioners’ meeting on March 30th. The items referred to the Washington County Sheriff’s facility generator.
- Approved an order granting a discretionary exemption for generator engineering services at the Washington County Sheriff’s facility. The court then approved a contract with MEP Engineering for generator engineering services at the facility.
- Approved an agreement with Spherion Staffing Service for industrial positions staffed at the Washington County Expo.
- Gave the county judge authority to enter into contracts with Keese & Associates Architects and Chappell Hill Construction for repairs to the Washington County Expo office annex and event center.
- Approved a construction contract with Larry Young Paving for the Old Mill Creek Road rehabilitation project under the 2020 CTIF Grant Program.