Sheriff Randy Adams pled to the commissioners at the Dec. 19 meeting that deputies need a pay increase in order to help attract more qualified applicants to help with the manpower shortage in his department, and also help those deputies already on the payroll who are working overtime each pay period.

He explained that Mineral County is not the only department facing a shortage, it is a nationwide trend. Sharing articles with the commissioners, he said that the title of one of the articles explains it all.

Adams told the commissioners, “We are at the point right now that if we go another officer down, we will have to cut service. Basically, there is a good chance we wouldn’t have graveyard shift. It would be an on-call agency. We are currently a reactive department right now instead of a proactive department with the shortage, we do not get not only qualified applicants – we get no applicants.”

“There’s no way we can continue to operate like this,” he continued. “I hired on with Mineral County Sheriff’s Office almost 23 years ago for almost $2.40 less than what we are trying to hire people on for, today. $2.40 in 23 years, folks, we can’t continue to operate like this.”

He proceeded to explain to the commissioners that most agencies in Nevada are now hiring their officer at over $20 per hour. He continued to research the starting wage within Nevada and went to counties where the population is within a 1,000 people populous of Mineral County, though he admits he didn’t do the surrounding counties to Mineral as “that would just flat hurt feelings”.

Those agencies are $10 to $13 per hour over the deputies of Mineral County. The agencies that are within the populous of Mineral County are between $5 and $7 an hour over what Mineral County offers.

“We are currently, the absolute lowest paid department in the State of Nevada,” he advised the commissioners. Neighboring Esmeralda County, with less than a 1,000 person population at the last census, make more money than Mineral County deputies.

“This is a critical shortage. This is a problem that is going to continue to get worse if we don’t do something about it. If we don’t bring – I can’t even call it a competitive [wage] – I’ve done some numbers here at $4 and $5 per hour and I don’t even know if I can say that is competitive pay, but at least it will be close to the competitive pay, at least here in town, offers. I will get close to what a guard, that doesn’t have 1/16th of the liability that comes with being an officer. It will be competitive with those people who work in the hospital – in the kitchen,” Adams explained.

“Where are we going to get it?” asked commissioner Jerrie Tipton.

“I don’t know,” the sheriff responded to her.

“We are starting with the lowest end fund balance ever – that we have started with in ten years,” she told the sheriff.

“I hate to say it like this, but that isn’t up to me, Jerrie.” He went on to tell the commissioners that in the direction the department has went in – that all of the officers will leave for more competitive jobs in the field.

“We are demonized throughout the country,” he said. “You still need a certain type of people, we don’t lower our standards, we can’t do that. But everything is changing in our nation. The new generation of people [per the article he presented the commissioners] want a different kind of law enforcement. They want to go to work in law enforcement but they want it to be kinder and gentler, and that’s all good, except for when someone tries to kill you and it’s a fact right here in Mineral County that it has happened and bullets were flying, on more than one occasion in my time here.”

“We are literally asking people to put their life on the line for the same amount of money… whose jobs are in line with secretary jobs,” he explained.

Commissioner Garth Price agreed with the sheriff and explained he believes this needs to start with union negotiations.

He reminded them that if public safety dwindles, you won’t get people to develop businesses or purchase homes.

Deputy Curtis Schlepp explained that he came into the department to help and the hours they are working are a liability.

The sheriff reminded commissioners that he understands these talks need to happen with budget negotiations and the union but within that time, the department could lose another officer.

“If we lose another officer – graveyard shift is over,” Undersheriff Bill Ferguson point blank told the commissioners.

The sheriff and undersheriff told the commissioners that not only do new deputies but those who are currently employed need to be compensated.

Mark Nixon, former undersheriff for Mineral County, told the commissioner that this issue goes back further than 23 years, more like 30 years when he was in that office and believes that the current deputies need to be compensated now for their efforts.

There was discussion about moving funds from benefits to helping those deputies now.

Tipton said that this issue needs to be addressed at a later date when legal counsel is available.

The commissioners will readdress this at the Jan. 16 meeting. Until then, the sheriff’s department is still down six positions.