County works to attract guards to re-open jail facility

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Mineral County officials brainstormed ideas to market the vacant detention officer positions in more attractive ways at a meeting on Friday, July 12. (File photo)

Following a failed attempt to reopen the Mineral County Jail with a private company last month, county officials met July 12 to brainstorm ideas to market the vacant detention officer positions.

Undersheriff Trollope suggested advertising the position in a more attractive way to trigger interest from outside applicants for the jail, which closed in December due to a staff shortage.

“The undersheriff would like to see pictures of how beautiful it is here, almost brochure like, to get people to apply,” said Dawn Terrill, head of Human Resources and the commissioners’ administrative assistant.

This however raises the question of where these potential applicants will live.

“It’s still being discussed and brainstormed but it’s hard to move forward,” Terrill said.

There are currently only two applicants for the detention officer position for the minimum five positions the county needs to operate the jail.

County Commissioner Roman Zylawy says they first need to find interested people to work to reopen the jail.

“It’s hard to even start when we have two applicants,” he said.

At a jail meeting in May, former detention officer Brandy Taylor said there was no definitive chain of command at the jail, which was the main reason staff quit. Officers didn’t feel adequately trained and it wasn’t clear who was in charge.

“Complaints get lost in the sauce,” Taylor said at the May meeting.

When Zylawy tried to convince former officers to return, he says they were disinterested.

“There was a couple people I talked into coming back and they gave it a run but the same thing happened,” he said.

Cathy Reich, a Mineral County resident who works at Superior Schools, believes working environments need to be good in order to retain employees.

“If they do not have a good working environment those people will not last no matter what type of person they are,” she said.

Terrill says human resources is currently developing a program to make themselves more available to employees. Crime Victim Advocates are also working with suffering employees to boost morale.

In the meantime, deputies continue transporting inmates to the Sanders County Jail in Thompson Falls and the Missoula County Jail, leaving fewer deputies to patrol. Mineral County must pay $78 per day to Sanders County and $108 per day to Missoula County facilities to house an inmate.

“I’m writing a check right now to Sanders County Sheriff’s Office right now for inmate housing, $2,478,” Zylawy said.

Mineral County paid $20,000 to Sanders and Missoula counties to house their inmates in March.

In order to reopen the jail, commissioners are working to attract, hire and retain detention officers.

“There has been talk from the undersheriff about brainstorming how we can do better advertising, but it really hasn’t been decided yet that that’s where we should be heading,” Terrill said.

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