3 corrections officer positions for St. Lawrence County jail get initial approval

Aug. 18—CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators approved a resolution during a special board meeting Monday authorizing additional corrections officer positions at the county jail.

The New York State Commission of Corrections mandates 56 correctional officers as the minimum to meet operating needs, according to the resolution.

The resolution says that the current makeup of available staff at the Canton facility has reached a critical level, requiring schedule adjustments to ensure all shifts are properly staffed. This has meant hiring part-time workers.

"Since the facility opened in 2009, the county has been able to function adequately with 56 officers, and part-time correction officers to model this is no longer feasible," the resolution says.

Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe, whose office oversees the county jail, and County Administrator Ruth A. Doyle have recommended abolishing five vacant part-time corrections officer positions to assist in absorbing the cost of hiring three full-time officers.

"I want to take five part-timers and make them three people," Mr. Bigwarfe said during the meeting Monday.

Ms. Doyle said the part-time positions were difficult to keep staffed, as many people aren't interested in working part-time.

Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, questioned the sheriff about the logistics of the proposal, and ultimately thought it wasn't appropriate for the board to consider.

"We have a committee to fill vacancies, and we don't normally fill them with a resolution from the floor," Mr. Lightfoot said. "For that reason, I'll be voting against the resolution."

Mr. Lightfoot was the only legislator to vote against the resolution.

"The sheriff presented an example to all of us that there was an emergency," said Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, referring to the staffing shortage at the facility. "I wholeheartedly support this resolution, I stand by it, and hope everyone else supports it."

Legislator James E. Reagen, R-Ogdensburg, supported the measure, saying he didn't think it wise to "second-guess the sheriff on how to run his department and fill his personnel needs."

"We should support the sheriff and the department and let him address this as best he can as quickly as he can, and I have complete confidence in him," Mr. Reagen said.

The resolution will move to the next full board meeting on Sept. 12.