July 2, 2016

Mostly clear

Sheriff’s Office unions save jobs with vote

MEDINA — There will be no layoffs at the Medina County Sheriff’s Office after union members agreed to stop collecting 3 percent raises they received this year.

The vote was 79 to 49 in favor of the proposal, said Deputy Bill Harrell, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for Medina County.

If members had not voted for the proposal, Sheriff Neil Hassinger planned to lay off 14 employees and close a 48-bed male unit at the Medina County Jail. The affected employees were given layoff notices last month and their last day would have been Wednesday.

Last month, county commissioners told Hassinger to cut $230,000 from his budget for the rest of the year to offset a nearly $1 million budget deficit countywide.

Two weeks ago, union members narrowly defeated a proposal where they would have to take off two days per month without pay.

Harrell said the vote passed this time because forgoing a 3 percent wage increase was less of a sacrifice and members received more information before voting.

“We had an agreement written out,” he said.

The agreement applies only until the end of the year. In January, members will receive their 3 percent raise back, along with an additional 3.25 percent raise, as part of their contract if it is not amended, Harrell said.

The union contracts were approved in March, the same month 24 employees were laid off. The unions represent nearly all the 150 employees at the sheriff’s office — deputies, corrections officers, dispatchers, sergeants and lieutenants.

Hassinger has never proposed laying off any sergeants or lieutenants. He did not return a message seeking comment Monday.

At Monday’s commissioners meeting, Commissioner Pat Geissman said while the union vote fixes the sheriff’s budget this year, county officials should start thinking about next year. One suggestion she offered was to ask townships who use sheriff’s deputies for road patrol to help pay for their salaries.

Eight townships currently have a contract with the sheriff’s office to provide extra patrol services, while others rely on the deputies on duty to respond to calls. Four townships — Brunswick Hills, Hinckley, Medina and Montville — have their own police departments.

By law, the sheriff’s office is not required to have a road patrol, but all three commissioners said during the meeting it should not be disbanded.

However, Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley does not believe townships should have to contribute since only 30 percent of the county’s population uses the sheriff’s office as their primary police force and it is unlikely most townships are in a financial position to do so.

Contact Allison Wood at (330) 721-4050 or allisonwood@ohio.net.