The Richland County commissioners are going to spend a significant amount of money to continue to keep county residents safe. The board voted on Tuesday to allocate up to $600,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to retain deputies and corrections officers and attract new personnel to the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.
Under the plan, current employees and new hires who have been with the department for at least six months will be paid $1,250 retention stipends at the end of December. Similar payments will be made at the end of June and December 2023 and the end of June 2024.
Chief Deputy Major Joe Masi said the department is losing personnel mainly through retirement, although there are also those that are transferor to other departments or going to other careers. Patrol and corrections operations are down a combined 25 to 30 people.
Masi said the hardest part is finding qualified people.
“We’re basically in competition with other law enforcement agencies,” he said. “The numbers aren’t there. People aren’t going into law enforcement as a career like they were 10, 20, 30 years ago.”
Sheriff Steve Sheldon noted that when he first took the police test “a number of years ago” there were 500 people who took the test for five or 10 openings.
“There has certainly been a turnaround and I’m not sure why,” he said. “It may be cyclical things. A lot of things are going on around the country.”
County Business Manager Andrew Keller said ARPA regulations make a specific provision for premium pay for essential workers, adding that it’s fair to say sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers are very essential workers.
“They’ve been on the front lines since this COVID-19 debacle began and they continue to be on the front lines both in the community and at the jail with inmates,” he said. “This is a way for the commissioners to highlight their respect that they have for what our law enforcement and corrections officers do.”
Commissioner Darrell Banks said he is happy to reward those people who are on the front lines and expose themselves to COVID and other dangers. Commissioner Cliff Mears called it a “creative and resourceful” way to use ARPA funds and said it’s important to recognize that the commissioners take the safety of Richland County residents seriously.
Last month commissioners approved a $9,886 contract with Lind Media for billboards in five locations to help Sheldon advertise for new deputies. The sheriff’s department employs about 120 people in law enforcement and corrections when fully staffed.
Commissioners OK Shelby chicken farm expansion
Commissioners also voted to approve an application by county resident Charles Cooke for a change in his poultry raising operation on Champion Road northwest of Shelby. The change involves an increase in the number of animals in the design capacity of an existing concentrated animal feeding facility by 10% or more in the current permit.
Ohio Revised Code section 307,204 requires anyone a new or expanded Major Concentrated Animal Feeding Facility (MCAFF) to notify county and township officials of potential impacts to road infrastructure. County Engineer Adam Gove told the board that Cooke is making a change in how often he will be moving chickens from three large barns that are about 60 feet by 600 feet each.
Gove said Cook told him during a recent telephone conversation that chickens will be moved out at a younger age so more can be included in a shipment.
“He told me this will mean about 50 additional truck trips per year, which is not very significant when you look at overall truck trips for that type of farm,” he explained.
Based on the information Cooke provided, Gove said he does not see any need to require him to make any improvements to any of the county infrastructure in that area. The travel route for trucks servicing the farm includes Ohio 61, London West Road and Champion Road.
Gove said this is the first time a permit request has been filed with his office under the section of law and that he wanted to discuss the issue with commissioners as a matter of precedent for other requests.
In other business, commissioners awarded a $201,279 contract to Worner Roofing of Ontario for several roof repair projects and approved a one-year lease with the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center for 6,522 square feet of space at the Longview Building at a price of $68,481. They also approved a raise for a maintenance position a Dayspring to match that of county maintenance employees and approved a retire-rehire at the county wastewater department.