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Council approves raises for sheriff’s department

The Harrison County Council last week approved raises for 2016 for sheriff’s department officers, including the chief, captain, lieutenants and patrol officers ranging from 12 to 28 percent.
The final approved figures are still below what was requested in August from Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye.
Seelye said the problem they have is the pay for officers in Floyd and Clark counties, along with the cities of Jeffersonville and New Albany, is much better than Harrison County.
‘We have a real threat of losing a lot of our good officers,’ he said.
Seelye said it comes down to the fact that officers can drive an extra 15 minutes and get paid $10,000 or more per year.
The council approved recommendations from human resources firm Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele & Associates of Indianapolis for the market value of the sheriff’s department positions.
‘Those are just guidelines, averages,’ Councilman Richard Gerdon said. ‘I believe we have above-average officers … the whole ideal is not to have turnover. Why can’t we get up there with Floyd County and Clark County?’
Council Chair Gary Davis asked Gerdon if he wanted Harrison County to be in the same financial strains as those counties.
‘We’re not there,’ Gerdon said.
‘Except for the boat (Horseshoe Casino), we’re there,’ Davis replied.
Gerdon said if the boat goes away, then they’ll have troubles.
‘It’s not if, but when,’ Davis said of the riverboat revenue going away.
Gerdon said he supported giving the sheriff what he presented.
Seelye’s request amounted to a 21-percent raise for patrol officers ($43,702 up from $35,984), 33-percent for lieutenants ($50,482 from $37,773), 46-percent for the captain ($56,078 from $38,376) and 22-percent for the chief ($64,861 from $52,861).
Davis recommended using the figures from Waggoner, Irwin and Scheele.
Gerdon said Harrison County officers should be equal to Floyd and Clark officers or higher because of the existence of the riverboat.
‘The challenge is to have a sustainable budget over time,’ Davis said.
‘We failed on that a long time ago,’ Gerdon replied.
Councilman Jim Heitkemper made the motion to go with the human resources firm’s recommendation, and Councilwoman Sherry Brown seconded with the stipulation that the council revisit the issue next year.
The motion passed 5 to 2, with Gerdon and Councilman Sam Day against.
‘They’re less likely to leave if they know we’re still putting an effort in getting salaries equalized (with area departments),’ Brown said.
Seelye thanked the council for taking the issue seriously.
‘Clearly, it’s a big raise for our guys,’ he said.
In other budget matters, the council approved a raise for the parks department superintendent, Rand Heazlitt, to $50,782, up from $43,229.
The council will read the budget at its next regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 13 (moved from Monday because of Columbus Day), and again Monday, Oct. 26, when it will become official.
Other than the sheriff’s department, Heazlitt and engineer Kevin Russel, all salaries and hourly wages were frozen for 2016.