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Wednesday, 03 April 2013 19:29

From the jail to the library, Haywood commissioners field wish lists for extra employees

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A parade of Haywood County department leaders went before county commissioners during a budget work session Monday, each pleading their case for why their department needs an additional employee or two next fiscal year.

 

Seven county agencies took turns making their pitch to commissioners. In sum, their requests would mean adding 16 new full-time equivalent employees to the county payroll — total budget increase of $665,000. Commissioners have pledged to keep the county budget lean this year, so adding that many new positions is unlikely.

So to bolster their own cases for new staff, department heads used words like “need” or “desperate for” to stress the importance of the new positions.

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office made the largest request, asking for six new officers — one narcotics detective, a lieutenant, a transport officer and three detention officers.

North Carolina Jail Inspections mandate that the sheriff’s department have two officers on-duty in the women’s jail building during each shift no matter how many inmates are housed there.

“If we had one person, we would have to have two people there to watch them,” Christopher said. Christopher said the sheriff’s office needs additional detention officers to be in compliance.

And although the sheriff’s office already has a part-time transport officer to move inmates, the individual is working more than 40 hours. Therefore, Christopher suggested making the position full time.

The new sheriff also asked the commissioners for another narcotics officer. The sheriff’s office has only one dedicated narcotics officer, which Christopher said is not enough to combat a rise in prescription drug abuse being witnessed in Haywood County. So far this year, about one-third of unexpected deaths were the result of drug overdoses.

And because of increased drug activity, the sheriff’s office is dealing with more property crimes as well.

“Whenever property crimes go up, it’s because of the drug crimes,” Christopher said. “That’s just the way it is.”

Ira Dove, director of Haywood County Department of Social Services, had a more modest request — asking for only one additional social worker to help with increased caseloads.

From 2008 to 2012, the number of people receiving food stamps went up by 3,700, yet DSS has not had seen a staff increase to carry the additional workload.

“You have a significant amount of stress on [food stamp caseworkers],” Dove said.

The Haywood County Public Library is hoping to restore an IT position it lost about five years ago. Now, it has to use the county’s central IT support staff. But the library’s technology woes usually take a back seat to others in the county, said Sharon Woodrow, the county library director.

“When we call, we have to wait,” Woodrow said. “The library is not top on that list ever, and we don’t expect to be.”

Technology problems in Emergency Management Services or sheriff’s office take precedent.

“If an officer comes through our door with a laptop that’s not working, we stop everything,” said Lori Tomlin, director of the IT department.

For that reason, the libraries’ computers aren’t updated as often as they should be or are offline for extended periods of time. Sometimes, new computers sit, waiting for someone from IT to come set them up. The librarians rely on computers to check out materials, and the public uses computers to look up materials. The libraries also have a bank of public computer terminals for those who don’t have computers or Internet at home.

“It’s just so important for us to have someone on site,” Woodrow said. “We can’t keep up without it.”

Woodrow said she would be willing to share the library’s IT person with other departments.

But the Haywood IT department is requesting an additional staff person of their own. The county IT department only has three fulltime employees, which isn’t enough to keep a handle on the number of work orders coming into the office.

“We are putting out fires every day,” Tomlin said.

IT workers often have to devote their time to larger, more pressing work requests, which doesn’t give them much time to take care of more menial duties such as setting up new computers. A new help desk employee would focus on the smaller tasks that can be handled within an hour or two, Tomlin said.

“With that, we could make a little bit of traction [toward whittling down the work orders]” Tomlin said.

The remaining new position requests included a part-time technician for the Soil and Water Conservation District, two fulltime animal shelter employees and four fulltime 911 telecommunicators.

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