Aiken City Council member Dick Dewar plans to request several items from City Manager Richard Pearce regarding Aiken Public Safety turnover problems during Monday's Council meeting.
Included in the four items he wants City staff to address is the completion of a Public Safety compensation study.
“I want the direction from Council on developing a grievance system; the one we have is ludicrous,” Dewar said. “We need a better exit interview system, and we need to hire a consultant for an employee research survey.”
Earlier this month, Dewar and other Council members questioned members of Public Safety as to why the department's turnover rate has been so high in recent years. Chief Charles Barranco defended the department and said the numbers may reflect responses to tragedy, such as the losses of Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson in December 2011 and Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers in January 2012. Comparatively low salaries may also be the cause, Barranco said.
Aiken Public Safety's turnover rate in 2012 and 2013 combined was 31.5 percent among “sworn” employees, a number based on figures provided to City Council. Of 89 “sworn” employees, in two years, 15 left voluntarily, 10 employees retired, two were terminated and one died.
Of the 15 employees who left voluntarily, eight took jobs with other agencies, including the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, with security firms and in the field of criminal prosecution. The City of Aiken's figures reflect that even with turnover, 51 percent of Public Safety's sworn officers at the department have 10 or more years of experience.
“I just hope to get approval on these issues,” Dewar said. “We need to deal with Public Safety issues now and not wait until the budget rolls around.”
In other business, Council will also make a special presentation to William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Both a football and pop culture icon, Perry played defensive tackle for the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears and became known as “The Refrigerator” or “The Fridge” due to his size. He was born in Aiken and played football at Clemson University as part of the 1981 National Champion team. He was recently picked among four voted into the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame.
Before the regular 7 p.m. meeting, a public work session regarding improvements to Whitney Polo Field will be held at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Municipal Building, located at 214 Park Ave.
Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.