Employee Retention Concerns Shared with Pulaski County Council

Pulaski County Council: back row: Mike Tiede, Kathi Thompson, Brian Young; front row: Scott Hinkle, Rudy DeSabatine, Jay Sullivan (not pictured: Ken Boswell)

Some Pulaski County officials are asking for the county council’s help when it comes to retaining employees. Highway Superintendent Terry Ruff told council members Monday that he wants more money for his staff in next year’s budget.

“There’s been some discussion on the amount of employees we’ve been losing at the County Highway because, basically, they go, move on to better jobs,” Ruff explained. “We’ve lost a couple guys that’s basically irreplaceable. One of them was our mechanic. Right now, we don’t have a mechanic.” Ruff said most neighboring counties have fewer road miles, but more employees and higher wages.

Sheriff Jeff Richwine had similar concerns. “We’ve got some excellent deputies right now,” he told the council. “I’m telling you, it’s a good bunch, and I just hope that we can keep them. I think we’re doing the best we can do. I’m not asking you to pay them what LaPorte County makes, Porter County makes. We can’t do that. We’re not those counties. These guys and gals know that. But just kind of keep that in mind, what I think public safety faces now with this drug epidemic.”

Richwine said the retention rate for deputies has improved, especially with the new pension plan. But he said he has trouble keeping the jail staff, due to the low pay. “You know, in my last budget, I tried to get some of the [out-of-county inmate] housing money to get their pay up a little bit,” he reminded council members. “I understand that didn’t go and we’ll do that again and I’m sure it’s not going to go this year. But that’s just something I think we should do.” The sheriff pointed out that a 2016 staffing study found that his department was about seven employees short of where it should be.

The discussion comes as the county council begins looking at ways to balance the budget for future years, which may involve cutting staff. The highway and sheriff’s departments both have access to funding outside of the county General Fund, which could allow for some more flexibility.