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Davison County seeks safer courthouse

With the hope of making the courthouse safer, the Davison County commissioners created a new Sheriff’s Department position Tuesday.

An additional sheriff’s deputy will be hired for courthouse and courtroom security. The Davison County Commission has held discussions about courthouse security since 2011, with some of the advocates for heightened security including Tim Bjorkman and Pat Smith, both judges.

Davison County Sheriff Steve Brink asked the commissioners Tuesday to make a decision on whether he can move forward with the hiring of another deputy for courthouse security.

“There’s been a lot of city council meetings and courtrooms around the country where tragedies happen,” Brink said. “We want to be proactive instead of reactive before something happens. Times are changing, and I want to change with them.”

The position will start at $16.26 an hour, which equates to $33,820.80 annually, the regular deputy starting wage, and will have possibilities for raises after a probationary period. Brink also explained there will be “start-up costs,” including purchasing radios and potentially having to send the new employee for training to get certified. He estimated the entire cost the first year to be $70,000 to $80,000, which includes employee benefits.

Brink said he wants the position to be a sheriff’s deputy so the person can carry a gun while on duty. He also explained the person may have other duties, such as patrolling local schools. Currently, a sheriff’s deputy attends court during what Brink called “high-risk court sessions.” He said unarmed jail staffers also attend during court.

“There have been what, four instances this year in this building’s courthouse that could have escalated pretty fast?” Kiner said. “It’s the question of what’s the price of safety, and can we afford it?”

Aside from getting the OK for a new employee, Brink also got the go-ahead to purchase a 2014 Ford Expedition for the Sheriff’s Department at a total cost of $29,424 and approval for the signing of a software license and service agreement, with Zuercher-Technologies, of Sioux Falls, that is also being used by the Mitchell Police Division after getting passed at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

“I’m ecstatic about today,” Brink said. “The commissioners were good to me.”

Jailer negotiations finalized

After several weeks of negotiations, the commissioners agreed Tuesday to offer all Davison County correctional officers a raise of 2 percent plus 75 cents an hour. The raise is 25 cents higher than one the commissioners handed out Tuesday to other county employees.

The motion was passed 3-2 after an executive session, with John Claggett and Gerald Weiss voting against the motion.

“I’m in favor for the quarter an hour extra for the jailers,” Commissioner Denny Kiner said. “Yankton and Beadle counties are $2 to $4 more an hour above what Davison County is and their counties are about the same size. I consider that job critical and to be in stressful situations often. They’re spit on, beat up and ridiculed.”

Claggett voted against the higher raise to keep everyone on the same scale at the same time, he said.

“My thought is to keep everyone on the same cost of living raise,” Claggett said. “I think changes should be made for salary at other times, but right now, at the beginning of the year, it’s time for the cost of living side.”

The commissioners have met with State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins for several weeks on negotiations.

Tammy Herrick, a correctional officer at the county jail and union steward, attended Tuesday’s commission meeting but did not make a statement publicly about the offer.

She said after the meeting by phone that Miskimins will now draft a final offer letter with the commissioners’ proposal to be presented to the union. The union will then need to vote on the measure, which to pass will need at least a 4-3 majority vote by the seven full-time correctional officers.

Herrick said the proposal by the commissioners Tuesday was for full- and part-time employees. She said this is the first time to her knowledge that part-time employees have been involved in negotiations with salary increases for correctional officers.

“I’m hopeful our union passes this, but I’m just not sure,” she said.