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Cass County jail, medical workers could see pay increase

The Cass County Commission discussed the idea of pay increases for medical and jail workers. The idea was brought to the meeting after various employees received offers from other employers.

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The Cass County Jail
Forum file photo
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FARGO — The Cass County Commission contemplated the idea of increasing compensation for jail and medical workers during their Monday, Aug. 1 meeting.

The board voted unanimously to table the motion until more information was acquired from Gallagher, an external consulting firm.

The idea has been on the mind of county officials for a while after jail and medical employees were offered higher paying jobs elsewhere.

"Probably a year ago," County Administrator Robert Wilson said. "One of the questions was 'would the county want to consider supplementing salaries for jail and medical (workers), if that were an enticement to recruit and retain jail and medical positions.'"

Wilson said the original plan was to supplement the workers 10%, and he worked with the county's financial team to see if the increase was a possibility.

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Now a year later, the idea still has yet to come to fruition, despite commissioners all in agreement.

Desi Fleming, the Fargo Cass director of public health, said that due to the current economic standing, money matters to workers.

"I know there is a very tight market with healthcare going on right now," Fleming said. "It's not always about money but I think a lot of it right now is about money with the inflation and everything else that is going on."

One of the Fargo healthcare workers received an offer from an outside company that was well above what she was making with the city. A pay increase would keep the city and county competitive and help retain workers, Fleming said.

On the jail side, it can be dangerous work and is not always for everyone, Commissioner Mary Scherling said, adding, "It takes a special person to work in a jail."

Scherling also mentioned the peace officer that sustained injuries on July 27 at the Cass County Jail after being assaulted by an inmate. The recent attack proves the validity of the dangers of working at a jail, she said.

Commissioner Chad Peterson thought there were an abundance of factors that needed to be considered to ensure an adequate supplement.

"Not all animals are the same," Peterson said. “We've got a differentiation between risk, stress and possible frustrations on a daily basis."

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The commission passed a motion, during the meeting, for a preliminary budget that would raise the cost-of-living 4% for county workers. If the commission decides to supplement the jail and healthcare workers, the budget would have to be amended, Commissioner Chairman Rick Steen said.

The issue might need to be resolved sooner rather than later.

One jail worker said there were people on his staff that might not stick around, depending on what was decided at the meeting.

The commission will wait to get more information from the Gallagher consulting firm, before making any decisions.

"We just don't have the information," Steen said. "We can't just say here's the percentage, here's what we're going to do. We've got too many open-ended questions, but the intent is we would like to do this."

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