By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite a hiring freeze, Essex County may still replace a security guard retiring from the County Department of Social Services.
County lawmakers were told there have been incidents with irate or even violent clients there that require caseworkers to be protected.
County Department of Social Services Commissioner John O’Neill said the only part-time jobs in his department are two security officers, and one of them is leaving soon.
“The incumbent is retiring at the end of this month,” he told the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee this week.
ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS
He asked the board to OK hiring someone for the 23-hour-a-week job watching the department’s entry and interview areas at the County Government Center in Elizabethtown.
Because the job is more than 20 hours a week, it is eligible for benefits such as retirement and health insurance.
County Manager Daniel Palmer said he’d recommend filling the position because there have been some violent incidents at Social Services.
“When the Sheriff’s Department was next door, there was a little leeway. That’s no longer the case. You have to have people to rely on when there are problems with clients.”
The Sheriff’s Department moved its operations to Lewis when the new County Jail opened there in 2007.
TWO MORE VOTES
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said he also believes the position is needed.
“As soon as you tell somebody they’re not eligible for benefits or you’re going to take their children away, they’re an irate customer, so I think it’s best to have security there.”
The County Human Services Committee voted to approve filling the security-officer post, with only Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) opposed.
He said the county should consider less expensive alternatives.
The hiring-freeze exemption will get another vote at the County Ways and Means session on Feb. 25 and a final vote March 4 at the board’s regular meeting.
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