BV Sheriff says more staff needed for crowded jailhouse

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The newly-constructed Buena Vista County Jail is continuing to see crowding issues with an average of about 35 inmates daily.

Gary Launderville, recently given the oath of office as the county sheriff, told the board of supervisors Tuesday that a sizeable portion of his budget will be spent in wages, especially on jail staff. Launderville says having more inmates in the jail requires more staff, and he feels he doesn't have the full-time help he needs.

Currently the jail employs six full-time and six part-time jailers. "We've managed to get by with the absolute minimum (for staff)," says Launderville. The situation seemed adequate until July, when inmate numbers began to rise and remainhigh.

With the extra load jail staff including part-time workers have put in extra hours. "We can't expect part-time to work practically full time, it's just not fair to them," the sheriff says. Launderville suggests it could be helpful to take on at least two more full-time jail staffers and then adjust part-time hours for other workers.

Launderville had numbers to back up his statements on the short-handed situation.

Launderville says currently Sioux County has 14 full time jail staff and 4 part-time and average about 30 per day in their jail - over twice the staff for less inmates than at BV. Plymouth County has 11 full time jail staff and four part-time jail staff, also with an average of about 30 per day. Launderville says O'Brien County currently has 10 full-time jailers and no part time. Launderville notes these three counties house some federal inmates. BV hasn't taken on federal inmates due to the demand for bed space - contacting eight beds for federal use would basically use up one cell area.

If the county looks at expanding some time in the future, it could provide more flexible space to possibly house federal inmates, and bring in the additional revenue such a contract could produce.

Currently much of BV County's revenue is from counties and inmates making reimbursement for the costs of incarcerations.

Launderville plans to meet the Supervisors next week to discuss the possibility of increasing the room and board rate for inmates, and said he'd like to see the rate increase from a current $30 to at least $60 or $65. Launderville says many similar jails in the state charge between $55 and $75.

The sheriff's office usually is able to receive reimbursement back from inmates who were sentenced to brief 48 to 72 hours stays, however, on ocassion inmates in more serious crimes are held here as long as six months and end up with a sizeable bill, however, the jail isn't likely to recoup the thousands of dollars owed.

Fifth District Congressman Steve King was scheduled to tour the jail earlier this week and visit with Launderville about the overcrowding concerns, however, due to inclement weather was not able to make it. King's staff said they hope to reschedule the visit. King says he wants to investigate the situation, but reserves comment until after he has seen the jail population first hand.

Also this week:

*County supervisors also approved a resolution to go forward for an grant application for $43,000 for a Multi-Hazards Mitigation Plan which helps identify policies, activities and tools to implement mitigation actions which help reduce or eliminate long-term risk to life or property as a result of a hazardous event. Ted Kourousis with Northwest Iowa Planning and Development Commission says this is the first year for the program here. In the past cities and counties could apply individually for grants, however, Kourousis says the State wants to make the plans more encompassing and BV County is the sole applicant this year for communities and rural areas across the County.

*The Supervisors approved an $5 increase to the County longevity payroll benefit "steps." The longevity benefit is available to all full-time County employees and is payable on completion of a certain number of years of service as follows: 5 yr. - $20, 10 year - $30, 15 year - $40, 20 year - $50, 25 year - $60, 30 year - $70 - effective July 1, 2009.

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