By Debbie Rolen
HOLDEN - The Southwestern Regional Jail at Holden will celebrate 16 years of service to Boone, Logan, Mingo and McDowell counties on Tuesday. The facility also is celebrating the addition of 13 correctional officers.
David Farmer, administrator, said, “I am a Logan boy, born and raised, and I’ve worked my whole life to be back here. I’m really proud of my facility and happy to see it grow.”
West Virginia Regional Executive Director Joe DeLong says Farmer is a “diamond in the rough.”
“Dave Farmer is the best jail administrator in the country. I did say country, not just the state. He leads, he gets the job done and he is results-driven,” DeLong said. “He and his staff at the Southwestern Regional Jail have achieved remarkable results. He makes my job easy.”
DeLong went on to explain a comprehensive study completed to evaluate staffing issues in the system.
“The jail authority was paying out about 20 percent of its payroll as overtime to correctional officers. This can mean the officers work too many hours, get burned out and increase the safety and workers compensation risk,” DeLong said. “The study and computer analysis were completed and revealed the facilities were not staffed appropriately and best practices were not being utilized.”
DeLong said they found they could add positions at the facilities at a lower cost than paying the overtime. He said they met with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and he supported the findings.
“Gov. Tomblin chose to pilot the program, adding positions at one location. In July of 2013, additional positions were added at the South Central Jail. Since then, their expenses have gone down by $500,000 and their payroll reduced by $205,000,” he said. “In February of 2014, the Beckley and Barboursville jails added staff and saved $23,000 and $29,000, respectively, in one month. Now we are going to add 13 positions at the Southwestern Regional Jail.”
According to DeLong, the numbers speak to the fact that adding staff is working. It’s saving the taxpayers money, reducing safety risks and workers compensation exposure. He went on to say this project would not have moved forward without support from the governor.
“We could not have accomplished our goals and implemented this program without Gov. Tomblin’s buy-in and guidance,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to have the same number of officers at each facility.”
State Sen. Art Kirkendoll is happy to see new jobs come into the area.
“I have been around long enough to know the difference between the county running a facility like this and the way it is now. It’s tough for a county to run a jail system,” Kirkendoll said. “This facility is something to be proud of and I am happy to see more jobs added in Logan County.”