PD will lose another cop
By RICK MORAIN
and ANDREW MCGINN
The Greene County board of supervisors Monday approved the hiring of Ashley Wilson as a deputy sheriff effective March 30.
Wilson is currently a Jefferson police officer making $42,554 annually.
She’ll earn $46,000 per year with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, with a $1,000 increase upon certification through the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
The county will pay for her 14 weeks of training at the academy.
Wilson was hired last summer as the Jefferson Police Department’s first-ever female officer, but now becomes the latest officer to leave the department.
The department has been beset by a turnover rate of 180 percent the past three years.
Jefferson Mayor Matt Gordon and Police Chief Mark Clouse have attributed the turnover to low salaries for the city’s officers.
Gordon said Wilson wasn’t the only applicant for the sheriff’s office opening from the Jefferson Police Department.
“They were able to choose which one of our officers they were able to get,” Gordon said Tuesday.
He said there were other circumstances for Wilson’s decision to leave than just pay, including the fact that she’s a resident of rural Greene County.
“But being able to walk across the hall for a raise is still part of the equation,” Gordon explained.
Gordon and Clouse have pointed out that sheriff’s deputies — with whom the police work side-by-side at the joint Law Enforcement Center — are paid well above the police officers.
And that gap is widening, Gordon said.
“If there’s a $10,000 difference,” he said, “all we’ll be is a training ground.”
Gordon has said that Jefferson police officers are paid in the lowest part of the bell curve among Iowa municipal police departments.
Jefferson in 2018 approved a package of incentives for new cops — including a hiring bonus of $2,000 and up to $9,600 in student loan payments — but it hasn’t been enough to keep the Des Moines suburbs or the Greene County Sheriff’s Office from poaching officers.
A recent push by Gordon to increase pay for police sparked what he called blowback from city council members and city employees.
“I’ve been accused of lobbying for the police department,” he said.
Suggested raises for the city’s police officers, floated by Gordon and Clouse, would see each of the eight officers receive a $10,000 raise by July 1, 2021, bringing Jefferson’s police salaries closer to the midpoint in Iowa.
Councilman David Sloan was concerned by that size of an increase, and didn’t see where the money could come from in the budget.
Police in Jefferson have a starting salary of $42,554 per year.
In other business Monday before the county supervisors, the board agreed with a recommendation from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield to waive prior authorization processes and cover a diagnostic test for coronavirus for county employees.
County Conservation Director Dan Towers reported that the McMahon Access Raccoon River boat ramp scheduled for Federal Emergency Management Agency repair may be moved to a better location about 2½ miles upriver from its current location northwest of Jefferson.
FEMA funding — 75 percent federal and 10 percent state — will still be provided for the project, with the county providing the remaining 15 percent of the cost.