DBQ Co. Jail Saving Money

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- The Dubuque County Sheriff said the department was once spending too much money on overtime, and to fix it, he eliminated 10 part-time positions and replaced them with five full-time positions.

Matt Goedken checks on inmates of the Dubuque County Jail on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)

Sheriff Joe Kennedy said the department spent $500,000 on overtime from 2011 to 2016. He said that's because there were never enough part-time employees, leaving full-time staff to pick up extra hours.

Kennedy speculates it was difficult to keep part-time employees because of the hours and type of work.

"Nights, weekends, holidays, and not having any kind of benefits or anything like that, we understand that when they find something that’s more suitable either to their family life or something that has benefits, they want to go do that to support their family," Kennedy said. "We totally understand that.”

Deputy Matt Goedken, a more than two year employee of the Dubuque County Jail, said it wasn't unusual for his eight hour shifts to turn into 12 during his first year of work.

"It’s very stressful. It can be. It’s a challenging job," Goedken said. "You know, you work 12 hours and then you try to get to sleep, unwind a little bit, and then you turn around, come back the next day and do it all over again.”

Kennedy began the process of converting part-time into full-time jobs in  August of 2017. He's hired 15 or 16 full-time employees in the last year, filling the five new positions and others that were left vacant due to different circumstances. Now those employees are in training.

The department actually ended up spending about $185,000 more on wages from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2018. However, in that same time, it did save about $40,000 on over-time.

Kennedy expects the savings to grow as the new employees are trained.

"We're on pace through the first quarter of fiscal year '19 to cut an additional $40,000 out of the budget," Kennedy explained.

Kennedy explained the wages are covered by money that used to be appropriated for part-time positions.

He said, "now we're putting that money, that $350,000 that we essentially turned in, we're putting that money to use at this time."

Kennedy said this model doesn't just save money, but it also creates a better work environment.

He said the old model didn't, "help towards their longevity here. You know, you have officer burnout or employee burnout because not only are they working extra hours, but because we have minimum staffing requirements, they can’t take off when they want to.”

Now the staff are also able to attend more training sessions.

"Prior to this, we were sending people to our minimum training just to get by and they weren’t able to go do additional things and learn different skills," Kennedy explained. "Now they’re able to spread their wings a little and get out and get to some training that will help them get better and be more productive employees.”

Goedken said it's also helped distribute the workload.

"When there’s 160 individuals, men and women that, you know, we need to make sure they’re safe, secure and fed, there’s just a lot of jobs to do," he said.