LONGVIEW — The Cowlitz County commissioners on Tuesday approved a three-year contract with the sheriff’s guild that officials say will help maintain staffing, and an agreement with a mediation center to expand services in the county.
The collective bargaining agreement with the Sheriff’s Deputies and Sergeants Guild covers 41 employees, Human Resources Director Jessica Warren said. It includes cost-of-living increases of 5 percent for 2023 and 2024 and 4 percent for 2025.
The contract also includes a 2 percent pay increase for 2023 to account for salary reclassifications and a contract signing bonus of $1,000 per employee, Warren said. The new agreement also adds a 2 percent specialty pay raise for detectives and K9 officers and adjusts paid holidays to be in line with other county collective bargaining agreements, she said.
Sheriff Brad Thurman said the contract keeps the county on par with comparable counties.
“Retention and recruitment of law enforcement officers has been difficult, but we’ve done actually real well locally here in being able to attract and hire quality people,” Thurman said. “This is a big step. This is the foundation of having good staffing.”
In other business, the commissioners approved an agreement to pay an amount not to exceed $40,000 to the Community Mediation Center to assist Cowlitz County residents in resolving disputes.
The Lewis County-based center provides mediation for parenting plans, marriage dissolutions, small claims and other disputes among neighbors, workplaces, consumers and merchants, according to its website.
The agreement is part of the Superior Court’s attempts to work through the backlog of civil and criminal cases that’s grown because of rising population, the pandemic and law changes, Judge Gary Bashor said during a November commissioner workshop.
“There’s a lot of effort going into law and justice and trying to find the most economical approach to some things that don’t need to be escalated or should be treated before escalation,” Commissioner Arne Mortensen said. “That’s what the mediation center does.”
The center opened a Longview location in mid-2021 to provide landlord-tenant mediation in Cowlitz County following the end of the state’s eviction moratorium.