The Suburbanite
  • Swanson says he needs more time to fully reopen jail

  • Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson told commissioners Wednesday that the county jail still can only accept roughly 400 inmates due to lack of staff. He said the problem has been trying to find qualified candidates while retaining existing employees.

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  • Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson intends to keep the county’s promise to taxpayers and restore the county jail to its full capacity.
    But it’s taking longer than expected.
    Swanson told commissioners Wednesday that the jail still can accept only about 400 inmates due to lack of staff. The jail has been at the 400-inmate-bed level since July and held 381 inmates Wednesday.
    “I can’t give you a time when we will be open to (500),” Swanson said.
    The sheriff, who had hoped to fully reopen the jail to its 501-bed capacity by Dec. 31, said the office can’t find enough qualified candidates. Since January 2012, the office has hired 32 employees, but seven veteran employees have retired and five of the new hires were fired during their probationary period for not meeting standards.
    “I’m sorry it takes so long to find them, but I refuse to lower the standards,” he said.
    The sheriff’s office now employs 209. Swanson’s goal is 254 employees, the same staffing level the office had in 2007. But the sheriff acknowledged the jail may be able to reopen with fewer.
    “Those are my ambitions and I’m hoping the next sheriff has the same ambitions,” said Swanson, who has agreed to fill the role of sheriff temporarily. Sheriff-elect Michael A. McDonald notified commissioners Jan. 3 that he could not assume the office due to an undisclosed medical condition.
    The cost to hire additional employees is expected to be nearly $2.4 million. Entry level exams for deputies, clerks and corrections officers are scheduled during the next month.
    During the campaign for the sales tax, county officials pledged to reopen 200 inmate beds that were closed beginning in December 2010 due to budget cuts.
    2013 BUDGET
    Swanson provided the jail staffing update as part of his 2013 budget presentation to commissioners. He has requested $18.7 million for this year’s operations, nearly 20 percent more than what the office spent last year. Commissioners are meeting with county officials this week to consider their budget requests and later will make a determination on how to best allocate the money.
    Included in the sheriff’s 2013 budget request is a 3 percent raise for administrative staff and 1.5 percent raise for most other employees. The unions representing the corrections officers, maintenance employees, mechanics and dispatchers agreed to the 1.5 percent raise as part of their most recent contract. The three remaining unions that represent deputies and ranking officers continue negotiating their contracts.
    The budget request also includes money to buy 10 new cruisers to replace some of the 14 cruisers that have more than 190,000 miles. Swanson said while his budget request addresses only the need for new vehicles, he recommends that a company specializing in building and facility maintenance evaluate the county safety center to determine structural needs. Swanson said he already knows the building needs repairs to its plumbing system, water lines and roof.
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    After the budget hearing with commissioners, Swanson said he has sent a letter to the Stark County Democratic Party’s chairman indicating that Lt. Louis Darrow, who has assumed command of the sheriff’s operations and patrol division after the retirement of Chief Deputy Rick Perez, is the candidate he believes should be the county’s next sheriff.
    The party’s Central Committee has until Feb. 21 to appoint a successor. No meeting has been scheduled.
    Sheriff staffing needs Stark County Sheriff Timothy Swanson said he needs to hire additional employees to meet his staffing goal of 254, which is the same level of staff he employed in 2007 and would allow him to full reopen the county jail.
    Here’s the breakdown of what positions still need to be filled:
    Position Employees needed Starting hourly wage
    Deputy 16 $18.66
    Corrections Officer 11 $16.71
    Clerk 8 $10.77
    Sergeant 3 $23.81
    Lieutenant 1 $28.57
    Captain 4 $34.23
    Total 43 $2,385,084

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