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Kootenai County commissioners consider on-call pay

Staff Writer | June 22, 2023 1:06 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Amid ongoing budget talks, Kootenai County commissioners discussed additional pay for some county employees while they are working on call.

Kootenai County Coroner Duke Johnson asked commissioners Wednesday to consider allowing his staff who are exempt from receiving overtime pay to instead receive $2 an hour over their normal pay while working on call.

“This request has come from our people,” he said. “It’s not taken lightly.”

Similarly to law enforcement, Johnson said his office is required by law to respond to the scene of a death under certain circumstances, whatever the time of day or night. The coroner’s office often works in conjunction with police to photograph crime scenes and collect evidence.

Johnson said he expects to add one more employee this year who can be on call on a regular basis. The on-call pay would make up a small portion of the budget for his office, which he said remains understaffed.

“That’s adding up to a thousand dollars a year (per on-call employee) to carry this,” Johnson said.

Commissioners indicated Wednesday that they will likely approve the request.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office has also asked commissioners to provide funds for on-call pay for detectives.

Commissioner Leslie Duncan indicated that detectives receive $2.25 an hour extra while working on call, as well as overtime pay when they respond to a call.

“We’ve got those other departments that would not be treated the same as detectives,” Duncan said.

Undersheriff Bret Nelson told commissioners that detectives are on call for a seven-day period, during which they must be ready to work at any time. They are paid for their 10-hour shifts, as well as for 12 of the remaining 14 hours when they are not at work but remain on call. They are also paid 24 hours each on Saturday and Sunday.

Sheriff Bob Norris said on-call pay for detectives is standard across law enforcement agencies.

“If you don’t allow our detectives the ability to have on-call pay, then you’re going against every other agency here in the Pacific Northwest,” Norris said. “We put conditions on these detectives when they’re on call.”

Commissioner Bill Brooks expressed support for on-call pay for detectives.

“Some jobs require a lot more outside your normal 9-to-5 duty hours,” he said.

The item will remain in the county’s proposed budget pending further discussion.