LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — With the city of Lexington amid contract negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with corrections officers, a representative of the local union told LEX 18 he hopes any resolution will help address the staffing shortage at the Fayette County Detention Center.
"Our full staff number is 278 officers," Sgt. Steve Parker said. "As of today, we're looking right at 100 short."
Sgt. Parker is the vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Town Branch Lodge 83, the local union for corrections officers, and works at the detention center.
He estimated that at least 90% of officers at the jail are working 16 hour days, at least three to four days a week.
During a city council work session last week, the commissioner of public safety in Lexington acknowledged the serious nature of the shortage.
"Let's not kid ourselves," said Ken Armstrong. "The staffing levels out there have always been an issue, but they're extremely concerning."
The council recently approved $5,000 bonuses for city workers, which include corrections officers at the detention center. But even city council members admitted this may not make a dent in addressing the issues.
"I don't care how much you pay them," said Council At-Large Richard Moloney, during the same work session last week. "You pay them $100,000. I don't think they'll come to work here. Because that is a tough job."
Parker said that the pay for the jail is competitive with other facilities, although the union is advocating for higher salaries in the next contract.
The larger issues, he suggested, are about the leadership at the facility.
"They really get frustrated when there's no lead by example," he said.
Parker said some officers have complained that they are covering extra shifts and working overtime, while supervisors in management are not.
When asked for comment on the staffing shortage at the detention center, a spokesperson for the mayor's office sent the following:
"Lexington is facing challenges in staffing just like cities all over the country. We have been aggressive in recruiting new employees. Over the last year Corrections has been actively pursuing new employees via the use of social media, traditional media, referrals, and numerous job/career fairs. Corrections has a continuous application, recruitment and hiring process to ensure that applicants can be processed as quickly as possible."
The current job listing posted on the city's website says recruits will be paid a little more than $15 an hour. You must have a high school diploma or a GED certificate, be willing to work any shift and call back duty, and cannot be a convicted felon.
For a full list of requirements and responsibilities, click here and select Community Corrections Recruit.