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RSW jail board looking at salaries

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Site work continues Thursday at the RSW Regional Jail in Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The area's next regional jail set to open in 2014 could mean higher pay for local officers but fewer positions to go around.

The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority board met Thursday and heard a brief report from its transition committee comparing employees' salaries and benefits at the three local facilities. Pay likely would fall under the responsibility of the superintendent. The authority board has agreed the process to search for a superintendent should begin in January. The nearly $79 million borrowed for the project includes funds to hire a superintendent and staff for the facility.

Authority board member John C. McCarthy, county administrator for Rappahannock County, said the authority should worry more about competing with salaries paid at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Frederick County when a superintendent begins hiring staff.

"It's almost certainly the case our jailers, in order to come work at this jail, may get salary increases because of our salary schedule," McCarthy said. "But of course this is a business competitiveness issue. We're probably a lot more concerned about our average salary of what the Northwestern Regional jail pays up there in Winchester, Clarke, Frederick, because, likely, we're competing for the same employees.

"So what they pay as an average salary frankly is going to be more concern to me than what any of these three counties pay," McCarthy added.

The administrator estimated the regional jail may hire 100 people at a minimum but that number would grow based on prison populations. McCarthy noted the staffing number likely will change as the authority progresses with the project.

But as McCarthy noted, in most cases staffing at regional jails fell below the total number of workers in each of the participating localities prior to the creation of the combined facility.

The salaries set will likely depend on what the Northern Virginia market demands.

"Some are gonna have rewards; some may have penalties when you count the travel time," McCarthy said.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron provided information on salaries and benefits to the transition committee, which met just before the authority board.

Annual salaries in Rappahannock County include: $43,725.64 for chief jailers; $34,492.72 for jailers and $24,059.16 for food service staff. By comparison, Shenandoah County pays chief jailers $47,332; $34,676 to jailers; and $25,354 to food service workers. Warren County pays chief jailers $44,105.05; jailers $31,202.22; and $28,276.73.

As McCarthy explained, the regional jail would not set salaries at the highest compensation of the three facilities. Nor would the regional jail pay the average of the three salaries, McCarthy said. Instead the regional jail may calculate the salaries by a different method.

Shenandoah and Warren county jails have some employees that Rappahannock County does not. Shenandoah and Warren pay sergeants $40,271 and $36,196.60 respectively; nurses $52,486 and $36,196.60; LIDS technician $40,271 and $26,914.20. Shenandoah County pays office clerks $29,415.

Localities will fund the salaries based on the percentage of the total population provided by each county.

When the new facility opens, McCarthy said he anticipates it would require fewer employees to staff than the number of workers manning the three local jails.

"I think the biggest advantage particularly for the employees who are going to transition to the new jail is there is more opportunity for advancement," McCarthy said. "Even if you're in the Warren County Jail you're in a pretty small box. This is a much bigger box."

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What officials said for a July 26 story.

Officials indicated no employees currently working at the local jails would see a reduction in status or rank, but members noted present staff would likely be evaluated before being hired to work at the regional facility. Workers wouldn't see their pay cut if the authority chooses a uniform scale for salaries and benefits, officials said.

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