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Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis is pictured in his Pinckneyville office in March.

PICKNEYVILLE — It has been five months since Perry County Sheriff Steve Bareis had to deliver the bad news that he would be laying off three part-time employees and give options to two full-timers, but now, he says, everyone has been put back to work.

In a press release sent Tuesday, Bareis said the layoffs themselves only lasted about two weeks, but it has taken several months to bring everyone back to their original positions. In an interview Wednesday, he explained how he was able to maneuver bringing everyone back.

He said, initially, one full-time deputy was given the option to work at the Perry County Jail through union seniority, while another was given this option at a part-time level. However, after the death of Sgt. Joshua Harsy, the senior patrolman was put back on the road while the employee who took part-time work was moved to full-time at the jail.

“One of the guys that was going to be laid off never missed a day of work,” Bareis said.

While Bareis said both officers are happy to be back working, they said that coming back after a death on the force is never ideal.

“This is a bad way to get your job back,” he said.

The layoffs were announced in December after a Perry County budget meeting in August revealed that the county had a shortfall of $550,000, which County Clerk Josh Gross attributed in part to rising costs of services and salaries as well as insurance costs. The deficit also ballooned as a result of the years-long budget impasse at the state level.

Tuesday’s news release said that shortly after the staffing restructuring, one employee took an appointed position with the Secretary of State’s Office, which left an opening for Bareis to hire a new deputy, who will start in the fall.

The layoffs and restructuring took a department of 12 officers, including the sheriff and two investigators, to 10, which still included two investigators and the sheriff — leaving Bareis with seven patrolmen. However, after again restructuring the department and with this year’s new hire, Bareis said he hopes his department will again be back at 12 by January. He said because of union rules, he is again able to use part-time patrolmen because he has brought back or offered positions to the other laid off patrol officers.

Part of what made these layoffs so short-lived, Bareis said, was an influx in income from the housing of federal inmates. In December, he said he hoped to bring in extra income for the county by working with the Federal Marshals. On Wednesday, Bareis said he had planned on housing about 23 inmates at $60 a day, but has been able to maintain higher numbers — currently he said they have about 40. Though this has always been the plan, Bareis said county officials wanted hard proof that it would work before counting on any income.

“The board did not want to bank on that money until it could prove itself,” Bareis said. "As long as we can maintain where we are at, we should be able to skate having to deal with this in the fall."

Gross said the county has seen “increased revenue across the board,” which has helped cut short the layoffs announced last year. He said this in part comes from increased revenue from their landfill as well as significant cuts to expenses.

“We have had a very good first five months of the year,” Gross said, adding that he remains cautiously optimistic. “You never know when things can take a turn."

That said, he was pleased about the news Bareis’ office shared Tuesday.

“We are very happy we got to bring everybody back,” he said.

Bareis said the while he was short-handed, he and his men still had a job to do. He said part of this meant changing shifts from 12 hours to 10 hours. He said his officers weren’t big fans of this — he said the issue was “filling shifts if someone took off.”

In the release, Bareis said shake-ups elsewhere in the country as a result of December’s layoffs have also been worked out.

“In other areas of the county, Bareis reports that with the retirement of maintenance worker, John Iffert, that the Perry County Animal Control officer was called back to work effective March 15th, when the employee that was filling in as Animal control was moved back into her original maintenance position,” the news release stated. Bareis said the animal control employee had been out of the job for about two months.

Gross said Bareis was given the green light to bring back those he laid off at a budget meeting in February, but added that the sheriff wanted to wait to make sure the rehires would be permanent.

Gross said there would likely not be another county budget meeting until August.

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Reporter

Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Franklin and Williamson counties.

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