Deputy pay too low in Garfield County?
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario is looking to get his deputies a raise.
Because of the competitive nature of recruiting law enforcement officers in the area, Vallario has begun speaking to county commissioners about raising the wages of his deputies, citing the high cost of living in the area and the higher wages offered to deputies in adjacent Mesa and Eagle counties.
“I am again here looking for help, looking at what we can do to compete,” Vallario said. “We are losing good employees. It is now down to dollars and cents.”
The sheriff made his pitch to county commissioners as the county began the process of creating its 2009 budget.
Vallario told commissioners his office recently lost two deputies because they can’t afford to live in the area anymore. He said he also has other employees who reside in Grand Junction and commute to Garfield County, but with the high price of gas, they are considering applying to work in Mesa County.
Vallario said he couldn’t blame them for looking elsewhere, because detention deputies in Mesa County can earn about $21.80 an hour and patrol deputies earn about $23.50 an hour.
Garfield County deputies, detention or patrol, start at $18.77 an hour. In Eagle County, a deputy starts at about $24.70, Vallario said. He said there are people wondering why they should work in Garfield County, when they can earn significantly more in Eagle County.
Vallario said deputies leaving the department for better wages elsewhere also poses a significant challenge because of the cost to equip and train new deputies. He said it costs about $136,000 to train and equip a patrol deputy with a vehicle and other items like a weapon and a uniform.
“I can’t keep deputies who are trained,” Vallario said. “I am just throwing something out for discussion and looking for creative ideas.”
Earlier this year, Vallario said he was considering offering a $2,000 signing bonus to new deputies who come on board, along with a $500 incentive to those in the department who recruit other members to join the office.
Commissioner Tresi Houpt told Vallario that he should put together a package to give the commissioners a clear understanding of his wage proposals and the cost of hiring new deputies.
Commissioner John Martin said the issue of increasing wages for the county’s deputies should be an “interesting” discussion as the county fully begins crunching its numbers for the 2009 budget.
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