County jail remains in limbo

The Yuma County Sheriff’s Office presented a plan for reopening the county jail at the last Yuma County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Sheriff Todd Combs has stated it is his last attempt at presenting a reopening plan.
The commissioners decided at the meeting to table the jail situation until November, according to a memo posted by the sheriff on the YCSO Facebook page.

However, County Administrator Brandi Ritchey shared that the Commissioners Office has not tabled the fiscal discussion, and the commissioners will continue to have discussions in working to get the jail open again. She noted the commissioners will begin the 2024 budget process in September, and a decision cannot be made until all the pieces of the budget come together in November.
As reported previously, Sheriff Combs announced in early June that the jail is permanently closed, due to an ongoing staffing shortage. Area law enforcement agencies are transporting people they arrest to the Logan County Jail in Sterling.
Last October full-time operations at the Yuma County Jail were suspended due to falling below minimum staffing requirements. It remained open until the first of June as a holding facility for recent arrests, as well as transports back and forth from other facilities for court dates.
Staffing at the jail has been an ongoing issue for the past two years.
Combs first alerted the commissioners of the situation in February 2022. He said hourly wages for jailers was not even competitive for a number of other entry level jobs, and provided a long list of such jobs. He also stated it is an extremely difficult job, and people could make as much, or more, money working in a less-stressful environment.
Combs and Sergeant Joe Wells presented the reopening plan at the last commissioners meeting.
The sheriff’s memo, shared on the YCSO’s Facebook page, noted that the commissioners altered his previous two plans presented in 2022 (offering a lower starting wage than what the sheriff had requested). Combs stated that the result was his office was unable to retain and hire qualified staff.
The latest plan calls for a starting wage of $24 for an untrained qualified new hire. Starting pay for an experienced individual will be decided by the sheriff and jail supervisors. All existing deputies and supervisors employed by the jail will receive a pay increase immediately that reflects the proposed starting wage. The same goes for all deputies and supervisors on the patrol side of the YCSO, in order to create uniformity in salaries on the jail and patrol side of the YCSO.
The figures had been provided to the commissioners on May 16.
The proposal calls for funding a total of 12 jail positions, including two supervisors.
There are also new requirements for court security and employing a full-time nurse in the jail. Combs’ plan states the court security positions will be paid in full by grant, which this year is $90,000. The county would provide the benefits and other costs.
The county would have to fund the nurse position, which is required now by state legislation.
Combs’ memo concludes: “I am not interested in negotiating these points. I have allowed the BOCC to modify my plans twice before and they have been abject failures. If the BOCC chooses to not meet the points I have outlined above to reopen the jail, I am going to move forward on developing a plan that does not include an operating jail in the county. The close of the jail is a loss of 10 jobs and possibly families out of our communities and county, revenue that was generated by housing out-of-county inmates, and has put a strain on the public safety provided by the law enforcement agencies in this county.”
Ritchey shared that the requested increases would be catastrophic only seven months into the 2023 fiscal year. The 2023 budget was approved in December 2022.