JEFFERSON, Iowa — The Jefferson City Council followed the lead of the Greene County Board of Supervisors this week, unanimously approving a 28E agreement that assures adequate law enforcement coverage for the city of Jefferson.
The one-year agreement is intended to give the Jefferson Police Department time to cure its critical shortage of police officers by raising its starting wage.
The county-city agreement will take effect effect Oct. 1 and expire Sept. 30, 2021.
Greene County Attorney Thomas Laehn authored the agreement and presented it to the supervisors Monday and to the city council Tuesday.
The agreement sets a rate of $1,000 per shift for the sheriff’s office to cover up to 15 shifts per month in Jefferson. The shifts will be determined jointly by Jefferson Police Chief Mark A. Clouse and Greene County Sheriff Jack Williams. There may be fewer than 15 shifts needed during some months.
The sheriff’s office will also assist the police department with some administrative or clerical tasks. Jefferson Police Captain Heath Enns joined the sheriff’s office in August, and Sgt. Shane Jones is leaving the police department at the end of the September. The city will pay $1,750 per month for a half-time administrative employee of the sheriff’s office.
“I’m glad we can work together,” said Greene County Supervisors Chair John Muir. “We have an obligation to make sure the citizens of Jefferson have law enforcement services.”
In order to assure itself that the city is committed to rebuilding the police department, the county included in the agreement several benchmarks or deadlines for the city to meet:
- Oct. 30: complete interviews for at least two new Jefferson police officers
- Nov. 13: extend job offers to at least two new officers on condition of their completion of testing
- Dec. 8: extend formal job offers to two new officers
If the city does not meet the benchmarks, then the county can terminate the agreement, Laehn told the city council Tuesday.
“Our hope, everybody’s hope, is that the police department rebuilds and succeeds,” Laehn said. “The county does not want to take on an indefinite obligation, nor do we want to supplant the Jefferson police department. This is going to put an enormous strain on both the PD and the SO, but we want to work together and get through this together and succeed.”
Williams said the sheriff’s office would need to hire six new deputies to provide coverage for the city of Jefferson if the police department cannot be fully staffed.
City council members asked no questions about the county’s deadlines. Clouse and Jefferson City Attorney Bob Schwarzkopf were also silent during Laehn’s presentation.
Earlier this month, the Jefferson City Council directed city staff to begin renegotiating the police department’s contract with the AFSCME, the union that represents all non-salaried fulltime city employees. The current contract is in effect until June 30, 2021, but the council hopes a contract with more competitive wages will attract new police officers.
Victoria Riley is the editor and publisher of the Greene County News Online.