Aiken County considering raises for sheriff's office, detention center employees

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Oct. 1—Aiken County Sheriff's Office employees, including those who work at the Aiken County detention center, could be getting raises in the near future.

Aiken County Council is getting ready to formally consider pay boosts for those employees, the panel's chairman Gary Bunker told his audience Friday during an Aiken Chamber of Commerce event at Newberry Hall.

He also discussed that topic afterward, but declined to reveal how big the wage hikes might be.

"We're having trouble with retention right now based on the current salaries," Bunker said. "There is a lot of competition for these personnel because fewer people are going into these professions."

Any increases, he added, probably would be included in another ordinance to amend the county's 2021-2022 fiscal year budget.

County Council is scheduled to meet next at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the Aiken County Government Center.

During its September meeting, the panel of elected officials approved the third and final reading of a budget amendment ordinance that includes a plan for how to spend the federal funds that the county is receiving from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The amount is expected to exceed $30 million.

Also in the ordinance is language that addresses the reasons for and the legality of the county's road maintenance fee.

The addition of the language was a response to a recent South Carolina Supreme Court ruling that a similar tax in Greenville County is unlawful.

Bunker described the situation with the sheriff's office and the detention center as somewhat similar to the one in the recent past with the county's department of emergency medical services, or EMS.

Because those employees also were difficult for the county to hire and retain, they received multiple pay increases.

At one point, when the boosts weren't attracting enough job applicants, County Council authorized Killian and his staff to offer what the market was demanding in order to fill vacancies.

Among the other steps taken were increases in marketing and outreach for the recruitment of personnel and the recruitment of additional qualified private ambulance services to augment what the county was able to offer.

The county also teamed up with the South Carolina Fire Academy to conduct a basic emergency medical technician class.

"We have made great strides there," Bunker said. "We were down to six (EMS) stations a day (in operation) due to vacancies. Now we have close to nine or 10 (that are up and running on a daily basis)."

The solution for the sheriff's office and detention center will be simpler, Bunker believes.

"This looks like purely just a competitive salary issue," he said. "With EMS, there were a variety of issues (other than pay) that we were trying to address."

Bunker was the featured speaker at the Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Means Business breakfast meeting, which is held monthly.

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