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Delegation denies adding two jail positions, citing turnover

CARROLL COUNTY HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS was well-represented at the March 28 graduation of corrections officers in Concord. Pictured here are CCHOC Assistant Superintendent Jason Henry, CCHOC Lt. Patrick Batchelder, graduates Christopher Filline, Kristina Martineau, and Vito Marcello, and CCHOC Superintendent Jason Johnson. (Courtesy photo) (click for larger version)
April 03, 2014
OSSIPEE — As the Carroll County Delegation met to finalize the County budget in Ossipee on Friday, March 28, jail officials and the human resource director were in Concord celebrating the accomplishments of three Carroll County House of Corrections staff.

CCHOC sent three corrections officers to be trained and become certified officers of the 95th New Hampshire Association of Counties Correctional Academy. At the March 28 graduation ceremony, once again CCHOC officers brought home some top awards.

Officer Kristina Martineau received top honors and was given the title of Honor Grad. In the graduating class of 17, Martineau was chosen by her peers and instructors in recognition for her leadership and academic skills and her overall participation in the course.

CCHOC Superintendent Jason Johnson said this is the third time Carroll County has brought home the Honor Grad award with Sergeant Tracy Newlin and Sergeant Michael Medina earning the academy's top award in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

CCHOC officers Vito Marcello and Christopher Filline also graduated March 28, with Marcello receiving the physical fitness award.

"The residents of Carroll County can be proud of these officers as well as all the staff of the Department of Corrections as they continue to represent our county with the utmost professionalism," said Johnson.

County taxpayers make an investment in the certification of these officers. According to Johnson, the officers are paid their weekly wage while attending the five-week academy. There is also a certification fee of $500 and, if officers commute to the academy in their personal vehicles, they are compensated for mileage costs. In total, it costs about $8,500 per officer for the certification process.

With the investment made in officers that complete academy training and with CCHOC plagued by a high turnover staffing rate, budget-makers here are entertaining the idea of requiring a contract before the employees are sent for certification. Preliminarily, suggestions have been made that officers be required to sign a contract that states they will remain working with CCHOC after certification for a set number of years and if they leave before the time is up, they would have to reimburse the County a portion of their training costs.

Johnson is opposed to that idea. In his research, he found there is only one other county in the state with this sort of agreement and he has learned that such agreements may not even be legally enforceable. Rather than adding another layer of policy, Johnson supports coming to grips with the reasons corrections officers are leaving and address those issues to improve employee morale and retention.

Union negotiations between the county commissioners and CCHOC officers union has reached an impasse, with no contract settled by the 2014 budget deadline of March 31. Though union negotiations are not public information, it is believed the issue holding up the contract completion is disagreement over wages. The commissioners have made it clear publicly that all county employees are to receive a 40-cents-per-hour raise, including all union employees, non-union workers, and management.

Without a contract for the jail and the nursing home unions in place when the delegation finalized the budget for 2014 on March 28, commissioners did not request and the delegation did not approve money needed for the raises for these two groups.

Based on salary survey information from NH Association of Counties Salary Survey of October 2013, the average hourly wage for a certified corrections officer at county jails across the state is $17.82. In response to the survey, Carroll County lists pay for its corrections officers in the range of $13.25 to $18.20 per hour.

The Carroll County Delegation also voted, at the recommendation of the delegation subcommittee, to nix the request for two additional full-time corrections officers to be added to the CCHOC roster. Currently, the facility employs 30 full-time officers and is looking to hire two more to bring its roster up to the 32 funded positions.

Johnson had hoped to get approval to bring the number to 34. He referenced two past studies that looked at the staffing and facility needs and suggest the optimal staffing number to effectively run the facility is 36. CCHOC subcommittee member Rep. Mark McConkey (R-Freedom) suggested that before the jail adds any additional staff, officials need to get a handle on retaining the staff it has, as noted in its high turnover rate.

According to Johnson, of the 17 staff that left their employ at CCHOC in 2013, four were terminated and 13 resigned. As for reason for resignation, Johnson said two left to return to school, six went on to other jobs, and five quit for "personal reasons." On average, over the past five years, CCHOC has lost 10 staff members per year.

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