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Commissioners debate truck regulation salary: Stark County officials try to woo back promoted deputy

As Stark County slowly thaws out from a seemingly never-ending winter, having a full-time truck regulation deputy in the Sheriff’s Office becomes more and more critical.

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Recently, the sheriff’s department lost its truck regulation deputy when Frederick Lee took a promotion and pay raise to become a sergeant in the department.

“I love truck reg,” Lee said. “I’ve taken truck reg as a passion because that’s what I do at my job.”

The truck regulation deputy looks for signs of overweight trucks on restricted roads throughout the county, weighs suspect trucks and tickets drivers as necessary.

The Stark County Commission approved a pay increase for the truck regulation deputy with a 4-1 vote at its regular meeting Wednesday at the Stark County Courthouse. Commissioner Duane Wolf dissented.

Lee did not make a decision regarding the position at Wednesday’s meeting.

“It is about wages,” Commissioner Jay Elkin said. “A truck reg individual does — it’s a different duty, it’s a whole different job. I’m not so sure that we don’t need to increase that salary.”

A deputy starts at less than $53,000 a year. Lee was making less than $56,000 as the truck regulation deputy. The commission moved to authorize the sheriff to offer the position to Lee at more than $60,000 or to open the position publicly at $56,000.

“It’s apparent that those duties require a heck of a lot more than we’re giving this guy credit for,” Elkin said. “Plus, when I look at the dollars that he has saved the county in damages to roads, plus the revenue that he’s brought in, would more than offset an additional salary increase to an officer that’s passionate about truck reg.”

Sheriff Clarence Tuhy was worried that offering Lee a higher salary for his old position would “open up a can of worms.”

Lee had told officials at an earlier meeting that one of the biggest reasons he applied for and accepted the promotion was for the pay increase, Elkin said.

“I live payday to payday,” Lee said. “It’s tough to live in the fourth-most expensive place in the United States.”

Part of the reasoning for the pay increase was to hopefully woo Lee back into the position.

“I believe that we could probably encourage the individual who moved out of there to come back into truck reg if we were willing to pay,” Elkin said.

Increasing the truck regulation deputy’s wages to that of a sergeant could be considered offensive to a sergeant, Lee said.

“I’ve been a sergeant for now a week,” Lee said. “In that week I’m going to tell you that, as a sergeant, I have had to juggle the things that are going on in our county and then have to deal with courtroom security — where my deputies are stuck in this building — to transports to Jamestown and taking two of my deputies off the road, and then having to worry about all the citizens of Stark County not getting patrolled or getting protection.”

He added: “So, should I stay a sergeant at the same pay as something that I was doing a week ago that I love? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. I would be truck reg if I had my say.”

While truck regulation is performed by a sworn sheriff’s deputy, the position and equipment come from the road’s department budget, Commissioner Ken Zander said.

That creates some confusion as to how to classify the truck regulation position, and if it should be considered with the deputies and the rest of the sheriff’s office, Commissioner Russ Hoff said.

“To me, it’s not part of the whole,” Hoff said.

Commissioners tossed around the idea of requiring the truck regulation deputy to stay in the position for a determined period of time before moving within the sheriff’s office.

“I just know these guys,” office manager ReNee Barndt said. “When I grow up, I don’t want to be truck reg. It’s, ‘When I grow up I want to be a cop,’ and they come with a love of being a cop first and foremost in their heart.”

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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