Shortage of deputies and firefighters leads to $1.9 million in overtime costs


Liz Fabian

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis hopes a new Outreach Center will help curb violent crime after a record number of homicides in 2020.

Hardly a day goes by that Macon-Bibb County’s fire chiefs aren’t talking about recruiting new firefighters and trying to keep the ones they have.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis shares their struggle to protect the community in the midst of staff vacancies.

“It’s crucial we have a competitive market both for the sheriff’s office and fire department,” Davis said. “We’re able to do the job with the good deputies we have working overtime.”

Tuesday, sheriff’s office representatives went before Macon-Bibb County commissioners to discuss overtime funding.

Davis needs to shift $845,000 in the budget to cover overtime for deputies through Fiscal 2020.

Fire Chief Marvin Riggins seeks $1,050,000 to do the same for firefighters.

The sheriff’s office is down about 100 deputies and the fire department is 72 firefighters short of a full roster, Assistant Fire Chief Shane Edwards said.

“We have it balanced throughout the county so the shortage is shared. That’s some of our strategic planning to make sure we have all the trucks staffed,” Edwards said.

Another 23 fire recruits are set to graduate at the beginning of May but the department is continually battling the lure of more lucrative offers outside Macon-Bibb.

They lost eight firefighters to Clayton County at the beginning of the year.

“They had a really nice incentive package they put together,” Edwards said.

Liz Fabian
Bibb County Sheriff David Davis checks a spreadsheet before asking for $845,000 to cover this year’s overtime expenses during Tuesday’s Operations and Finance committee meeting at Government Center.

A Bibb County sheriff’s deputy just joined the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for a higher salary, Davis said.

The problem has exacerbated in the past few years as new hires failed to keep pace with departures, he said.

“You typically will lose a deputy from Bibb County going to a state agency or either going to a larger metro agency,” Davis said. “So, it’s a sad situation when they’re leaving a large and dynamic agency and going to a smaller agency for more pay.”

Davis said the day-to-day calls are being handled and investigators are on call for serious crimes and homicides.

Deputies can work up to 24 hours of overtime within the two-week pay period and make time-and-a-half, he said.

Public safety officers often moonlight to make ends meet and these staffing shortages mean they can boost income a bit through overtime at their own agency.

With about 172 vacancies in both departments, money budgeted for the unfilled positions will be shifted to cover the overtime costs without having to dip back into the general fund.

The commission’s Operations and Finance committee approved the transfer Tuesday and the full commission is expected to approve it at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Davis is hopeful the pay scale study currently underway, which the sheriff’s office funded by shifting $99,500 from its commissary and other funds, will help the departments set competitive salaries.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected].