Government, Human Resources, and Law

Kent considers 27 new positions worth $2.1M

Potential employees include five officers, as well as workers for the expanded juvenile detention center.

August 24, 2018
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Kent County is considering the addition of 27 new positions in several departments.

The county board of commissioners will vote Sept. 27 on whether to add the new positions, purchase another police vehicle and convert one part-time position into a full-time position.

All positions would go into effect Oct. 1, with funding included in the 2019 recommended budget.

The county’s Legislative and Human Resources Committee, as well as the Finance and Physical Resources Committee have recommended the positions.

The total cost of the positions is over $2.1 million, though much of the funding comes from outside sources.

If approved and then funding for any of the requested positions is later eliminated or decreased and no other sources can be determined, the positions will be eliminated, the county noted.

Sheriff’s department

The sheriff is requesting three corrections officers to ensure compliance with recent state-mandated indigent defense standards, meant to more fairly provide legal counsel to those who cannot afford their own services.

The officers will assist the court with its plan of action to meet the standards, which include facilitating timely meetings between defendants and assigned lawyers, according to Chuck Dewitt, chief deputy of Kent County Corrections.

Estimated at $442,032, the cost of the positions is included in the approved indigent defense plan funded by the state.

Friend of the Court

The Friend of the Court is requesting a caseworker costing $82,114 and a new patrol officer and vehicle costing $170,005 to “help resolve outstanding child support warrants,” said Dan Fojtik, FOC director, in a request to the county.

After two deputies were assigned to the court in 2016, Fojtik said the FOC has received more payments, resolved more warrants without arrest, seen increased hearing appearances for those released on bond and had the ability to transport payers arrested in other counties.

These outcomes have resulted in “significant” financial benefits for the county, Fojtik said.

In 2017, the two deputies collected nearly $462,000, and 96 percent of the warrants they handled were resolved without arrest.

“Without this program, most of these payers would have been lodged if apprehended by outside law enforcement and unable to post the full bond,” said Fojtik, adding that would weigh financially on the system.

In 2017, Kent County was the first in the area to exceed the federal goal of 80 percent in overdue debt payments, meaning the county will receive full federal incentives in that category.

“Having deputies was undoubtedly a contributing factor toward increasing these collections,” Fojtik said.

With the increased ability to enforce warrants issued, the two case managers have been requesting more — 6,243 warrants in 2017, an increase of 546. In 2017, there were 300 more warrants issued than disposed, and the upward trend shows “no sign of slowing,” Fojtik said. Another case manager would help alleviate the workload.

Juvenile detention department

The juvenile detention department is requesting 20 youth specialists and one cook to staff the expanded facility. The annual estimated cost is $1.3 million, half funded by the state and half by the county general fund.

According to mandates regarding worker-inmate ratios, new staff would be needed after facility construction is finished next year, said Andrew Thalhammer, Kent County circuit court administrator.

The estimated total cost for the partial first year is $670,000.

The expanded facility and new positions will allow more children to be placed in the county with enhanced programming, rather than out-of-county facilities, resulting in “significant cost savings,” the county said.

Community Action

The Community Action division is requesting its continuous quality improvement specialist position be converted to a full-time position to increase capacity for internal process improvements and completing reports and grant applications, said Matthew VanZetten, assistant county administrator.

The estimated cost would be $37,355 funded through Community Services Block Grant and Housing Choice Vouchers funds, the county said.

Health department

The city of Grand Rapids was awarded a $185,960 Lead Hazard Control Community Development grant for Oct. 1, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2019, to remediate lead paint hazards and reduce elevated blood levels in young children, said Amy Rollston, Kent County human resources director.

The city has set aside $74,763 of that grant for the county health department to hire a full-time sanitarian position to help accomplish those tasks, according to a draft of the contract.

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