Alexander Co. commissioners, sheriff’s dept. divided over layoffs

Alexander Co. commissioners, sheriff’s dept. divided over layoffs
Published: Dec. 2, 2015 at 1:00 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2015 at 3:00 AM CST
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ALEXANDER COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - At the Alexander County Sheriff's Department, half of the deputies and three dispatchers were recently laid off.

While county commissioners say it's due to the county's lack of money, some say it's due to a disagreement in a proposed health plan.

"They cut the legs off this sheriff's department, they basically disabled it," former dispatcher Sheila Dodson said. "And to the worry over the guys, being there without dispatch, we're their safety net, and without us if something happens, they're just out there."

Sheila Dodson was a dispatcher at the sheriff's department for the past four and a half years.

In September, she got the news that she would be laid off.

"I don't want to look for anything else, but I may have to," Dodson said.

County Commissioner Chalen Tatum said layoffs had to happen due to the county's budget setbacks.

"We're doing everything that we can to keep as many employees as we can but were flat busted," Tatum said.

But former employees, like Meric Hawkins, say otherwise.

"It's more than that. They offered us an insurance that we didn't want to take, we got papers that say if they don't take it, then there's going to be layoffs," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said there wasn't an agreement due to the proposed health plan being too expensive.

"The insurance was going to be outrageous, it was going to be a lot higher a month for us, the county themselves and the benefits were not going to be the same of what we had," he said.

A letter from County Commissioner Chalen Tatum stated if there isn't an agreement on the issue of insurance by May 18, then the county board will vote on laying off employees from the sheriff's department.

"We were telling them that the health insurance would help us save money, would help us get a little further down the road. We can't force them to do anything," Tatum said. "That's totally their choice, they chose to stay where they was at, we ran out of money, it would have saved us money."

Residents say these layoffs raise concern in the area.

"It's a safety concern for everybody in the county, got nobody out there protecting ya," Alexander Co. resident Ken Goodbread said.

"If you get broken into and you call for help, how long is it going to take for somebody to get there?" Alexander Co. resident Kathy Goodbread asked.

Tatum said although layoffs as a whole are never an easy choice, depending on what the future holds, other actions may be necessary in the future for various offices.

"If we're in as bad of shape next fall as we are this fall, there will probably be more layoffs," he said. "I can't see the future, but it's pretty bad."

Tatum said three other offices had layoffs as well.

Both county commissioners and employees at the sheriff's department are hoping to talk soon to discuss negotiations of the health insurance plan and ways to save the county money.

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