BEATRICE – Faced with stiff competition for workers…many making higher pay…Gage County officials approved an increase in hourly pay for corrections officers and sergeants.

The Board of Supervisors, reopening a three-year contract, approved a $3 per hour increase effective March 27th. Sheriff Millard Gustafson says the county corrections department typically employs 13 or 14 personnel, with two positions currently vacant.

"You always try to watch the tax dollars, but I tell you anymore with the technology and now the's just unbelievable that since that contract was signed, how rapidly the wages have gone up, on everything."

Gustafson says with the wage increase, he’s hoping to attract persons who left for higher wages, back to the department. The change will increase the base corrections officer pay level from $16.57 an hour, to $19.57. Law enforcement Committee Chairman Gary Lytle says the suggested increase wasn’t without significant discussion.

"We had much discussion as to the range and what is the right thing to do. How to we take care of the building we have over there and making sure we have the staffing that's necessary."

The Fraternal Order of Police chapter representing the officers has sent a letter to the county accepting the offer in the contract, which still has about a year-and-a-half remaining. County Board chairman Erich Tiemann says it’s been a corrections industry trend….of having to offer better pay to keep positions filled.
"What prompted this were discussions with the sheriff attempting to make hires or advertising for jobs. This by no means brings us up to the top or the middle, but it brings us closer to where our surrounding and comparable jail corrections staff payrolls are."

Board member Emily Haxby says corrections pay was at the point where it was difficult to compete with other positions, whether private or public.
"It is a larger wage increase, but if you look at and compare other local job opportunities, we don't even come close. We wouldn't be able to fill those jobs if we didn't do something."

The county board approved the hourly increase on a 6-0 vote. Tiemann says corrections employees do a very important job which is, “not always desirable.”