by: Kevin McCarty Updated:
PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - By a vote of 6-1 Pierce County council members voted to make budget cuts that will cost as many as 16 jail corrections officers their jobs.
Layoffs will begin Oct. 2.
"This is dangerous," said Jail Capt. Marvin Spencer as he addressed the council asking that they find another solution to bridge a $5 million deficit in the jail's operating budget.
The county lost a contract to house misdemeanor inmates from the city of Tacoma after city officials decided to use the Fife jail instead. Fife charges less to jail those inmates, saving the city money.
Corrections officers facing layoffs and working with fewer staff members around often violent inmates vented their frustration at council members before the vote was taken.
One of them, Eric Neals, said he was told he will be among those losing his job.
"Got a call from the undersheriff, 'You will no longer be working there, you have less than a month, enjoy,'" said Neals.
Corrections Officer Erica Thompson told council members the employees left behind face increased danger because of the lost jobs.
"We really feel like we're getting the short end of the stick and we're getting kicked right in the stomach," said Thompson.
Last-minute amendments to the budget cuts will allow Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor to offer some bonuses to corrections officers who are close to retirement an incentive that could save as many as five positions. But he said laying off some of the officers was inevitable given the budget deficit.
"I hate this, I absolutely hate it," said Pastor. "But you know what? We're faced with the hard issue of cash."