SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The Smith County Commissioners Court has voted to pay about $7,000 of unused vacation time for county dispatchers.
Dispatchers lose a portion of their vacation time at the end of the year and haven't been able to use it because the department is understaffed. Eight of the twenty-three dispatch positions are currently vacant.
According to Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith, "It is a very stressful job… They need their time off. They don't need to be called in on their day off and work six out of seven days a week, sometime seven out of seven… Some of them are working double shifts, that is dangerous…"
So as a way to compensate for their inability to take time off, the Smith County Commissioners considered paying employees for their vacation time that can't be carried over to 2018. The proposal came with some push back.
Commissioner Joann Hampton said, "While I may be in agreement to pay it off, here's the problem I have... The Sheriff's Department is not the only department that has vacation time that will be lost, so when we do this we send an example to our other employees that it's okay for you to lose your vacation time, but were going to pay another department when they lose their vacation time…"
Commissioner Terry Phillips said, "If it is truly like he says, where you know, we are not letting them take it… I don't see how we can't pay them..."
Ultimately, the motion passed in a 3-2 vote.
The approximate $7,000 pay out for dispatch employees will come out of unused salary from dispatch positions that are currently open, so no additional funds will be needed.
In 2016, 124 employees in Smith County lost vacation time, totaling about 4,000 hours.