County begins hashing out courthouse security plan

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Even though the Bourbon County Commissioners had a full schedule, only about a half-hour of their three-hour Monday meeting was open to the public.

The remainder of their time was spent in executive sessions with no action taken after any of them.

The commissioners held two 20-minute executive sessions with County Attorney Terri Johnson, Bourbon County Sheriff Bill Martin and Undersheriff Ben Cole to discuss courthouse security.

A new security plan must be in place by Jan. 1 because the county was awarded an exemption from a new state law allowing handguns in public buildings. With the exemption, the county will continue to ban weapons in the courthouse.

Commission Chairman Allen Warren announced an hour-long executive session will be held at 11 a.m. Friday to continue the courthouse security discussion.

Other closed sessions involved matters relating to non-elected personnel to protect their privacy. Commissioners met with Road and Bridges Coordinator Jim Harris and office manager Jennifer Hawkins during a half-hour session that was extended another 15 minutes, and a 15-minute session with Johnson and Martin.

During the commissioners' open session, they met with Bobby Reed jail administrator, and Julie Miller, director of security at the Southeast Kansas Regional Correctional Center. Reed asked for the commissioners' help in "boosting morale" at the jail.

"And try to keep some employees here. I feel like our employees are good," Reed said.

He asked if the county could wait to implement a new pay schedule, which begins in January. With the change, all county employees will be paid every other week, with their first paycheck on Jan. 10.

Reed said like the sheriff's office, the jail operates 24 hours a day. He asked if they could be paid on an 86-hour week.

"What benefits would you see if it was changed?" County Clerk Kendall Mason asked.

"There wouldn't be any benefit, except we could go to 12-hour days," Reed said.

"We're going to every other week based on your recommendation," Warren said. "Now what are you recommending?"

The commissioners voted on Friday to change the pay schedule, after Reed pointed out the jail staff accumulated more overtime because of the way the pay schedule fell.

Reed said his concern was overtime would be counted after the 80 hours, but Kendall said it will be based on a 40-hour week. Jail staff had been working 12-hour shifts, but went to eight-hour shifts.

Second District Commissioner Barbara Albright found a federal Fair Labor Standards act, which regards law enforcement and fire department personnel. However, after Johnson read the Act aloud, it was determined it does not pertain to jail staff because they do not have arresting authority.

No motion was made to table changing the pay schedule, so it will go into effect in January and include jail staff. As Reed and Miller were leaving, Albright asked them to clarify what they meant by the need to improve morale.

"Expand on that," she said.

"Some never have weekends off and never see their families," Miller said.

Johnson said the issue of jail staff working hours should be considered when commissioners work on the FY15 budget, which will be in the summer.

In other county business, commissioners met with Bronson Mayor Alan Stewart, who thanked the county crews for doing what he said is a good job replacing a whistle on the county line road.

"Instead of hearing the bad, I just thought you'd want to hear some good," he said.

Harris told Stewart a crew would be headed back to the area with cold patch material Monday.

He also reported to commissioners that roads crews will be hauling rock and working on culverts this week at various locations.

Commissioners also met with Harris to discuss this week's projects, which include cold patching and culvert work.