By Frank Zufall
Courtesy Sawyer County Record
Sawyer County Sheriff Doug Mrotek told the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors at their monthly meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15, that because of an acute shortage of female jailers that will occur when two go on maternity leave that all female inmates in two weeks will have to be housed out of the county.
Sheriff Mrotek spoke to the board about not just the shortage of personnel in the jail but also in dispatch and shortage of part time workers who often fill full-time positions when they become open.
He said in the past there have always been part time workers who have been able to step in and replace a full time worker when they left, but now his office had very few part-timers.
He said in dispatch, with seven dispatchers, the division is down to two, and there are no part timers who are fully trained to replace a full time worker. However, he said there has been some interest and “a few applications” had been received and those persons where “job shadowing” dispatchers.
But it was in the jail where the shortage is most acute, with a shortage of four jailers.
“Out of the four vacancies, we’re down to four, full time females,” he said. “That’s a minimum requirement to house our female inmates. In four weeks, two of the four females we have are going to be on maternity leave. We have made arrangements to ship all of our female inmates out to surrounding counties. By October 14, we will have all of our females out of county.”
Mrotek said after October 14, when a woman is arrested she will be booked in and then immediately taken out of county to a jail, probably in Barron County.
“We are transporting our females primarily to Barron County, so we’re probably looking at two or three hours of downtime in patrol shift (for a patrol deputy), just with the arrest and transport for that female inmate,” he said.
Sheriff Mrotek said he had received communication from Sawyer County Circuit Judge John Yackel over concerns of transporting the women out of county and meeting court dates.
Mrotek noted his biggest staffing concern is in the jail.
“Why we’re losing jailers right now is they’re tired of being forced in it,” he said.
Sheriff Mrotek was asked by the Sawyer County Record of what he meant by “…tired of being forced in it.”
One short-term solution, Mrotek said, is that patrol officers would be trained to be jailers and could work, via overtime, in the jail to help relieve the jail staff.
“I know we’re going to get through this, but we’ve kind of exhausted every thought we can and open it up to the board and others,” he said. “If we are missing something or somebody else has a suggestion, we are open. We don’t know what else to do.”
Supervisor Stacey Hessel asked why people were not applying and asked if it was pay related.
Mrotek said the staff had reached out to other their friends to encourage people to apply, and he noted the starting pay, at $20.86, did not compete with the wages being offered at Louisiana Pacific (LP) or Arclin, and he thought it was part of the general labor shortage occurring across the country in various industries.
Chairman Tweed Shuman asked what would be the budget impact of moving all the female inmates out of county.
Mrotek said it cost the county $43 a day to house an inmate out of county, but he also noted that because of a staff shortage in the jail that the salary expense is down, and that by moving all the females out of the jail, that all the males that are currently being housed out of county would be brought back in saving the county that expense.
Sawyer County Administrator Andy Alberado said the county had already spent twice the projected budget for out-of-county jailing, and he also noted part of the expense for the county is transporting the inmates.