Sheriff says pricey chairs were needed for employees

The purchase of four ergonomic chairs by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is raising the eyebrows of some taxpayers but those who use them say they were necessary.

The chairs in question were purchased in the spring at a total cost of almost $8,500.Two of the chairs went to the Washington County Jail for their control room and were paid for out of the general budget, while the other two chairs went to the sheriff’s office on Fourth Street for dispatch and were paid for out of the 9-1-1 fund.

“That’s kind of ridiculous. It’s a little high,” said Steven Crites, 52, of Belpre.

Sgt. Jennifer Erb is one of the people who uses the chairs in dispatch.

“These chairs are actually sat in 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They don’t get a break. The people are different sizes, different shapes, different issues, different ages, so they can all be comfortable,” she said. “It’s nice because each person can adjust to what makes them feel comfortable, because sometimes you’re stuck in them for 12 hours. Sometimes you can get up and get a break and sometimes you can’t. It all depends on the call volume.”

Sheriff Larry Mincks said they are required to sit in their chairs for long periods of time.

“They can go to the bathroom and back, but other than that, they are sitting in that chair,” he said. “So, if you calculate, for one chair, in nine years and three months, that’s 81,000 hours.”

He said the chairs that they are currently replacing had a five-year warranty, but in 2017, they started deteriorating. Parts were bought to try to fix them but it didn’t help.

The new chairs are Iron Horse 4000 Series which features lumbar support, as well as height and headrest adjustments.

“The reason we have to have them sitting in there is we are a 9-1-1 center. These people also dispatch for 17 different fire departments, and that’s squad calls, fires, any type of emergencies,” Mincks said. “In addition to that, they dispatch for our officers. In the daytime, there could be as many as 12, because we have detectives and people out.”

He added that they dispatch also for the Beverly and New Matamoras police departments.

“So, you have two people here and that’s what they’re handling in a day’s time. The Wood County 9-1-1 center also uses chairs similar to this and they’re chairs, I think, are about $1,900,” Mincks added. “Our biggest thing is keeping the employee as comfortable as possible if we can during that shift. And we did look around and this Iron Horse brand seems to be the best brand.”

Erb said last year, dispatch took around 17,000 9-1-1 calls, with a total of 63,000 to 64,000 calls last year.

While two of the chairs went to dispatch, the other two went to the jail for their control room.

Maj. Greg Nohe, jail administrator, said they purchased the chairs because the chairs are occupied 24/7.

“We’d been spending money on repairing the chairs that wouldn’t last,” he said. “They weren’t durable.”

He said they would rather invest in chairs that are comfortable and durable and last longer, which he believes is a cost saving measure.

“Hopefully we’ll get 10 years out of them,” he said.

Mincks explained that at the jail’s control room, there is an officer who controls all the doors in the facility and constantly monitors all the inmates. The jail’s capacity is 124 inmates, but some are only sentenced to weekends. There have been as many as many as 140 or 150 housed at once.

“It’s a very demanding job, so that’s why we try to provide them with a chair that’s going to last,” he said.

Still, some think the price for the chairs was a little high.

“Whoo. That seems like it could have been used for something more useful than chairs. That $8,500 is a little on the pricey side. It could have been used to benefit more people,” said Dave Enoch, 48, of Marietta. “But I guess they do have to sit in it a long time so comfort is important.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

• Four new chairs were purchased by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

• The chairs cost almost $8,500.

• They are used for dispatch and the control room at the jail.

• The seats are supposed to last at least 10 years.

Source: Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks