During a joint meeting of the Vilas County Finance and Human Resources, the committees reviewed four proposals to increase pay for jail and social services staff.

Increasing jail staff hourly wage by $3 per hour and social services staff by $4 per hour was approved during the session.

The common complaint from department administrators is a person is hired and trained, and they then depart to another county that pays a higher wage. It was noted it costs the county $13,000 to hire and train a jail worker, and $54,000 for a social worker that has to have a four-year degree.

Finance Committee and Vilas County Board Chairman Jerry Burkett indicated they had some sensitive topics to discuss.

“This is a beginning,” he said. “These two departments are in a crisis mode and we need to address them first. Government is like a glacier, it moves, but sometimes not fast. This is not the final answer but a good step forward.”

Burkett added, “we are in uncharted waters — there is no handbook we can follow.”

Eight social services employees and 21 jail employees will be impacted by the wage raise, and when approved the $3,000 signing bonus would be eliminated.

Burkett said “we can’t make everyone happy today, but option one is a start.”

Eagle River Police Captain Gerard Ritter also proposed a $4,000 payment across the board for every employee, with Burkett saying the county “can’t help you with that today.” He added that he felt that the current $40,000 wage study may address those types of payments.

There will be a county board resolution regarding the wage increases submitted with these adjustments at the May 24 county board meeting.