Wilson tells BOC layoffs necessary because inmates down

Erich T. Doerr | Review Correspondent

The Clare Board of Commissioners meet on Monday to tackle several issues. Much of the day’s actions related to law enforcement including a visit from Clare County Sheriff John Wilson.

The board approved four motions during the meeting previously discussed last time in the Committee of the Whole. The first was the sale of two felony forfeiture vehicles, a 1990s Jeep and a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu, to pay for a used vehicle to be used by the county’s anti-drug Bayonet program. It wasn’t the only law enforcement proposal approved by the board which also passed the agreement offered by property owners on Eight Point Lake for the area’s residents to pay for extra police presence on three busy weekends next summer. There were no opposing votes on either motion but Commissioner Lynn Grim declined to vote on the Bayonet proposal after wanting to look more at the numbers regarding the sales.

The board’s next action was the approval of the proposed layoffs at the county jail which they discussed with Wilson. According to Wilson the layoff affects six employees, three part time and three full-time employees classified as transitional. The board approved the layoffs which have already taken place because of the number of inmates at the jail from the state and its resulting revenue is currently down.

“The bottom line here is I don’t feel we’re bringing in the revenue,” Wilson said, noting he didn’t want to cut in other areas such as road patrols because of the issue.

Wilson said the Clare County jail is built to hold 175 inmates but before the layoffs was only holding 100 to 120 with five employees per shift. He added the Isabella County jail by comparison currently has 200 inmates with four employees per shift.

“I can’t justify that many people back there for that many inmates,” Wilson said, noting the jail is budgeted for $2.2 million a year but without the revenue the cuts must happen.

When asked by the board why the county has so few state inmates currently, Wilson said they have 40 when they are looking to house up to 80, Wilson responded he believes it is related to a case where the county took in too many inmates from state at one time. He responded they had to send some of the prisoners back afterward. He added they have learned from that situation and are trying to work their way back up to higher numbers.

The board approved the layoffs but both chairperson Donald David and Grim said they hoped the department may be more timely in future requests as the employees were already laid off before the board approved the decision. All of the laid off employers are scheduled to be rehired when the number of inmates picks back up which the board is likely to discuss at a later date.

“They need to come before us before they hire anyone back,” Commissioner Jim Gelios said, questioning the savings produced by the layoffs because of the increase in overtime and requirement to pay unemployment.

Prior to tackling the layoffs at the jail Wilson briefly spoke to the board about the county’s 911 board with the commissioners.

“It’s running fine right now, I’m happy with it,” Wilson said. “Let me look at the stuff and I can tell you better (at the next meeting).”

Not all the board’s approvals were related to the Sheriff’s Office as the board also approved the appointment of Virginia Collins to the planning commission. Collins takes over a three-year term that expires on July 6, 2015.

Normally Clare County Board of Commissioners meetings are held on Wednesdays. This week’s meeting was moved to Monday to avoid any conflicts with the Thanksgiving holiday. All members of the board were present except for vice chairperson Jack Kleinhardt, who according to other board members had a prior doctor’s appointment.

The board was also joined in the audience by the Rick LaBoda, the incoming commissioner who was elected to replace David earlier this month. David said he invited both LaBoda and fellow incoming commissioner Dale Majewski to attend the remaining meetings before their positions with the board officially begin in January.

“We’ll give him a chance to ask questions,” David said.

The regular board meeting concluded with a closed session which according to County Clerk Pam Mayfield was to discuss some ongoing negotiations. Afterward the public was allowed back in for the board’s Committee of the Whole meeting discussing issues to be approved during the board’s next meeting on December 5. Items approved during the Committee of the Whole included a few small budget adjustments, a personal property tax abatement for Robotic Welded Parts of Clare and a $9,888.08 expenditure request for new computers in the Clare County Prosecuting Office.