The Lawrence County Commission tabled a decision on Friday, which would allow Sheriff Max Sanders to re-allocate funds in his department to add a $200 monthly hazard pay for deputies and jailers. In a work session last Wednesday, Sanders requested the hazard pay for his employees in an effort to slow staff turnover.
Sanders said the turnover rate among his employees has increased substantially because his department struggles to compete in compensation with surrounding counties. He has had two deputies leave in the past month.
One deputy left for a better paying position with UPS Inc., a second deputy left to work for Littleville Police Department, Sanders said.
While the starting pay rate for deputies in Lawrence County sits at $13.09 an hour, Sanders said most surrounding counties start officers at $17 an hour or more.
After a Lawrence deputy graduates sheriff’s academy, the rate is increased to about $14.50 an hour, which does not include hazard pay or a uniform allowance, Sanders said.
“Huntsville starts theirs out at $22 an hour. I understand we can’t compete with that,” he said. “If Moulton (Police Department) has an opening, they pay their officers $17 an hour, plus hazard pay and a $500 uniform allowance. That’s right here in Moulton. That’s why they don’t have much of a turnover.”
Though no federal or state law requires employers to pay hazard pay, the compensation may be given to employees for duty that could result in serious injury or death.
The sheriff said he weighed options of increasing the pay rate for employees by $1 an hour against the monthly hazard compensation. He said hazard pay will be more beneficial to employees, more efficient regarding the budget, and wouldn’t have his workers getting an hourlyraise while other county employees didn’t.
On Wednesday, County Administrator Heather Dyar said the commission would need a written proposal submitted by the sheriff’s department detailing how the compensation would be funded.
Sanders estimated $50,000 would come from the sheriff’s budget annually, and about $50,000 would come from the jail’s budget.
“If we see that we’re running out of money or it’s going to cost more than I thought it would, if somebody leaves, we just wouldn’t replace them to get it back in line,” Sanders added.
During the work session, District 3 Commissioner Kyle Pankey said he was for approving the adjustments as long as pay scales would remain the same, and Sander’s department was not requesting additional funding.
“This has escalated in the last few weeks as far as the turnover,” Pankey said. “If I were a police officer and I’m working here for x-amount of dollars, and I can drive 20 or 25 miles to get more money—and it’s not an easy job. It’s a dangerous job.”
During the commission’s regular meeting on Friday, commissioners voted 5-0 to table the decision, citing that they needed more information to proceed.
In other business, during its Friday meeting, the commission approved Dec. 26 as a paid day off for county employees. Dyar said the state gives Baldwin and Mobile counties a Mardis Gras holiday in February each year—other counties throughout the state can use the paid holiday at another time during the year if they choose.
County Engineer Winston Sitton announced that projects on County Road 72, also known as Iron Man Road, and the County Road 87 Bridge near Oakville Indian Mounds and Education Center are near completion.
After micro surfacing County Road 72, Sitton said the roadway will require two weeks to cure before striping can be performed.
The commission also approved a special meeting at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 22.