Douglas County officials hope to quell the staffing issues they've been having at the jail complex for the last year or so.  A proposal to pay retention bonuses to current staff members has been approved by committee and is set for a vote by the Douglas County Board at their next meeting.

We reported about staffing concerns back in October, when county officials first started talking about ways of both attracting and then keeping employees.  According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the Douglas County jail has ten vacant positions currently - with an eleventh coming shortly.

Part of the problem is the inequities of pay scale for Douglas County jailers as compared to neighboring operations.  To combat that problem, the Douglas County Board approved a "two-step wage increase" back in October.  However, that increase didn't meet the threshold apparently:

"In [neighboring] St. Louis County, where jail staff is represented by a union, corrections officers are paid anywhere from $23.51 to start to $33.39 if they proceed through the 15 wage steps.  Jail sergeants earn between $26.18 to $37.41 per hour, according to the union contract."

The wages in Carlton County register at the same levels:

"Carlton County pays its correctional officers $23.84 to $29.94 hourly, and jail sergeants pay range is $31.23 to $39.80, according to Gary Jackson, Carlton County Human Resources Manager."

Staff at the Douglas County Jail earn considerably less than their peers at both of those neighboring counties.  Even after the wage increase in October, Douglas County pays jailers $22.11 to $25.09 and jail sergeants $25.47 to $28.91.

Douglas County, WI courthouse and government services building
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

To help fill those eleven vacancies and to help retain the employees that remain, Douglas County has worked out a "recruitment and retention sign on bonus".  Under terms of the plan that was approved by the Douglas County Public Safety Committee on December 30, jailers "could receive up to $4,200 in additional pay if they remain employed by the county for two years.  Bonus pay would be paid out periodically in increasing amounts over the course of two years".

There is a catch:  Employees who leave before the two year mark will be required to pay back the bonus money that was paid to them - "whether they leave by resignation or termination". A binding document would need to be signed by any employee before receiving any of the bonus money.

A final vote on the two-year bonus plan will happen at the next meeting of the Douglas County Board.  That meeting is scheduled for January 20.

Douglas County Sheriff Department cop car in Superior, WI
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

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