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story.lead_photo.caption This May 2016 photo shows the Cole County Sheriff's Office and Jail in Jefferson City. Photo by Kris Wilson / News Tribune.

Amid staff shortages at the Cole County Jail, Sheriff John Wheeler is working to compensate on-call jail staff differently.

The Cole County Commission on Tuesday approved allowing two jail staff members to earn one hour a day of pay for being on-call.

If the on-call jail staff members are called in to work, they will receive overtime pay.

Some situations where an on-call staff member would be called in would be if a prisoner would need to be taken for a commitment at an area mental health facility or if a prisoner needed to be admitted to a hospital for a medical condition, Wheeler said. Jail staff have to stay with prisoners if they are taken to hospitals.

Wheeler said this approach is a better way to compensate staff than giving a stipend.

"If we did a stipend, we'd put everybody on call, so no one could go to a family function, attend a sporting event or whatever they chose to do with their free time," Wheeler said. "This way, I'm letting two people know they are our first call-backs and they need to make sure they are available."

The department had 14 open jailer positions as of Tuesday — down from 19 openings in June — and they are working to continue to fill spots, Wheeler said. There are 55 total staff currently at the jail.

This plan will expire at the end of the year.

Wheeler hopes the department will have hired more staff or come up with another proposal to help with jail staff shortages by that time.

Sheriff's Department cameras

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved Wheeler moving forward with replacing cameras in Sheriff's Department interview rooms. Wheeler said there have been ongoing issues with cameras since 2012 and the department has exhausted all repair options. The cost to make the repairs is estimated at $30,000.

Rail spur work

Commissioners also approved a change order regarding a rail spur at Morris Packaging in the Algoa area.

The county and city are each paying for the work, along with Morris. The spur will run from Command Web across Militia Drive and continue along the south side of Morris Packaging and Alpla.

While doing this work, it was found that ties under the crossing on Militia Drive are rotting and needing to be replaced. This work, along with work to replace fill and rock in the area of the crossing, will cost $56,744. That brings the total cost for the work to $429,954.

The project is now scheduled to be done in November.

There will also be an agreement between the county and city on paying for future maintenance at the crossing. The county had been picking up the cost in the past.

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