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By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Commissioners gave preliminary approval last week to a plan to increase starting pay for dispatchers at the Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Law Enforcement Committee, members voted to move forward with a budget amendment by Sheriff Ray Russell to transfer $4,256 within his budget.

“(Dispatchers’) pay is $13.10, the lowest in my department,” Russell told commissioners during the meeting. “I’ve had two leave, and another take a test (with another department) who may be leaving.”

Trousdale County Sheriff Ray Russell

The proposal would increase dispatchers’ pay by an estimated 60 cents per hour.

Some commissioners raised concerns about giving raises barely two months into the 2017-18 budget year, but acknowledged the need to be able to fill the positions.

Higher pay in surrounding areas, such as Sumner and Wilson Counties, have made it difficult for the Sheriff’s Department to retain staff.

“We’re not the only county losing officers,” said committee chairman Bubba Gregory. “They’re paying so much over there; the smaller counties can’t compete with them.”

Russell said he had lost three deputies in the previous month who elected to take higher paying jobs elsewhere.

The sheriff said he had one hire currently in the Law Enforcement Training Academy and two scheduled to begin in January. The sheriff estimated it costs $20,000 to train and equip one deputy.

Russell also said he was currently having to use sergeants and deputies as dispatchers to fill some shifts, which means paying overtime.

“They’re having to come off the road and fill slots at time and a half,” Russell told the assembly. “We’ve had this problem in the past.”

The proposed budget amendment must still pass through the Budget & Finance Committee and the full County Commission.

Gregory said the committee could examine deputy pay during budget hearings next year.

“That’s something we need to really look at hard,” the chairman said.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.