The Jackson County Sheriff's Department handed out pink slips Tuesday to 66 employees, which could drastically cut back patrols and search and rescue operations.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters confirmed the layoff notices were sent out based on seniority and affected employees hired starting in 2003. The notices sent shock waves through the agency, which has not seen layoffs under Winters' tenure.
"This is sad day at the Jackson County Sheriff's Office," Winters said. "I've been proud that I've never had layoffs here."
The county is in negotiation with the Jackson County Sheriff's Employees Association over a new contract. Winters declined to comment on the particulars of the negotiation.
Winters and Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan said they could not discuss the negotiations publicly without giving the union 24 hours notice.
This was a rule agreed upon by both sides at the outset of the negotiations.
Both said they would comment publicly on the negotiations today.
Winters did say if the two sides manage to come together some of the layoff notices could be rescinded.
If they go through, however, then the county could see significant cuts in sheriff's patrols, corrections staff at the jail, court security, search and rescue and other functions.
"We provide a wide range of service from county line to county line," Winters said. "We also assist several agencies in this area."
The cuts would eliminate 24-hour patrols in the county by the sheriff's department, Winters said.
"I don't see how we could continue around-the-clock patrols," Winters said.
Winters said he will call the heads of all the law enforcement agencies this morning to discuss strategies to deal with scaled-back sheriff's patrols.
"I want to call a meeting for early next week to talk about what their version is of public safety in this county," Winters said. "I want to know what they think, because we all work very closely together."
The pink slips gave employees 28 days notice that their jobs could be cut.
Winters said he has two corrections deputies in the academy right now who have been sent word that their jobs might not be waiting for them once the get out.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.