The County Commission gave the green light to a new payment plan for law enforcement officers, as well as firefighters and 911 dispatchers, to help retain employees.

“I think it’s time that we defend our police and fund our police,” Chair Scotty Hancock said.

County Manager Jamie McCord and Hancock said this is something they’ve been looking at doing for quite some time and the county has made adjustments over the years, but hasn’t put together a new plan in several years.

Currently, starting pay for Floyd County Sheriff’s Office and Floyd County Police Department employees is $31,701.

When the new plan goes into effect, starting pay for law enforcement will be raised to $38,000. However, this can be raised based on the person’s credentials, with a maximum starting pay of $42,000. McCord and county administration would still have to finalize details, but plan to have the new plan go into effect by Oct. 1.

To help compensate for the increase in pay, commissioners are looking at increasing the millage rate for the county, but haven’t made a decision on the new numbers yet. They plan to make a final decision at a called meeting on Aug. 5.

During the meeting, the commissioners discussed the competitive pay from surrounding counties and increasing troubles with keeping police departments fully staffed.

Currently the Floyd County Police Department is down eight positions and Chief Mark Wallace said he’s got high hopes this measure will help them recruit and retain officers.

In the past, he said, pay raises have been instituted by the police departments, but this time it was different.

“This time it was the county manager and county commission,” Wallace said. “The fact that they thought enough our public safety community to take the initiative to do this speaks volumes.”

Retaining trained officers who leave for higher pay in surrounding counties has been a problem for a long while, Wallace said. He praised the foresight of commissioners for taking care of a problem now, rather than waiting until it because a serious problem.

Commissioner Allison Watters pointed out in the meeting that while the pay rate has been historically lower, the departments have good benefits. County employees get health insurance, vacation and sick leave.

Both the sheriff’s office and Floyd police have longevity pay for their officers who stay on longer than a year and is adjusted as the years go on.

“Not many things aren’t incentivized and the base rate can be a small amount compared to what you take home annually,” McCord said.

Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter praised the commissioners for taking a stand and helping law enforcement.

“They’ll take some heat for doing it, but it’s needed to be addressed for quite some time,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have a commission that stands by us law enforcement.”

The fire department’s costs are split between the city and county governments. Earlier this week city’s public safety committee recommended giving fire department employees a raise, a measure applauded by Rome Fire Chief Troy Brock.

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