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Sheriff deputies to get pay hike

Polk County commissioners approved Monday an agreement signed by Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson and Sheriff Chris Abril that includes two-step grade increases for deputy and animal control positions and a one-step grade increase for the position of sergeant. &bsp;

The agreement to raise salaries comes after Abril said he is having trouble finding qualified officers who live in Polk&bsp; County because it is not economically feasible to live here on sheriff&squo;s office salaries. Abril also asked to allow deputies who live outside Polk County to drive their patrol vehicles home as a benefit. Abril said about seven officers live outside Polk County, but commissioners decided against letting them drive patrol vehicles home.

Abril&squo;s requests opened up further discussions about all Polk departments being on the low-end of salaries. Commissioners said Monday they are also worried about getting salaries in line in the emergency services department since some paramedics have to work two jobs to live.

County officials questioned whether commissioners&squo; motion Monday for pay increases in the sheriff&squo;s office also included pay increases for Emergency Medical Services personnel. They say the board&squo;s intent was to limit the raises to the sheriff&squo;s office, and do a pay study for other departments. The county says the issue will be clarified at the board&squo;s next meeting on March 17.

The county board has directed Whitson to return by the next meeting with estimates of how long a pay study for all departments will take. One option may be for the county to contract with MAPS to piggy back another study recently done in a nearby county to make the process quicker.

Commissioner Harry Denton on Monday mentioned that the last time the county adjusted salaries it cost almost $1 million and said he agreed the county needs to adjust salaries but wanted his fellow commissioners to be aware of the costs. Salary adjustments will most likely be done during next year&squo;s budget preparations which will begin next month.

Under the plan approved Monday for the sheriff&squo;s office, patrol deputy and animal control positions will receive pay increases from $24,333 to $26,827 and sergeant will receive a pay increase from $26,827 to $28,169 for starting salaries. The county&squo;s policy of granting a five percent pay increase after six months of employment will still apply.

The agreement also states that Polk deputies can drive their patrol cars home only as long as they reside in Polk County.

Deputies residing outside Polk County will be allowed to park their vehicle at the home of another officer who resides close to the county line when not on duty and one officer residing in Henderson County is allowed to take a vehicle home in order to patrol one section of Polk County that is only easily accessible from Henderson County.

The sheriff will also have the discretion to allow his captain of investigations who resides in Henderson County to drive his assigned vehicle home.