The Prince George's County Council, in its last session before an August recess, took final action on a number of bills and resolutions on Monday, including the reorganization of the county sheriff's department and a new labor contract for county firefighters.
The reorganization plan, ordered by the county executive in June, creates a Department of Corrections within the executive branch to take over the operation of the county jail and the transportation of prisoners from the County Sheriff's Department.
The Sheriff's Department will be left with two responsibilities, maintaining court security and serving civil papers. The department, currently headed by an elected official, Don Edward Ansell, would lose 176 positions under the proposal.
"It is a strong step forward for Prince George's County," said council member Francis B. Francois of the plan which will begin in January, 1978. "It has been a long time coming."
John Lally, an aide to the county executive, said interviews for the new director of corrections, will begin soon. "We have a raft of names who are interested in the job," said Lally.
Lally said the position, with a starting salary of $28,621, has been nationally advertised. "This is not going to be a political type job. We want a good administrator, the best in corrections we can get."
The council debated the salary classifications for several positions in the new department after Sheriff Ansell suggested that six employee categories be eliminated - some on the upper and some on the lower pay scale.
County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. said that "to delete the (lower) trainee and journeymen levels would eliminate the opportunity for career ladders." Keeping those levels would also allow the county to keep the budget down, sources said, by enabling them to hire employees at the beginning step levels
The council also approved a $3.2 million labor contract for county firefighters on Monday. The contract calls for a 20 per cent pay increase spread over a three-year period with an increase in work hours from 42 to 44 hours per week.
Howard A. Abrahams, assistant labor relations officer for the county, said in a public hearing last week that the contract would "make our pay rates competitive in the local area for firemen."
Several firemen attended the public hearing in support of the contract although one speaker noted that "no union raises the number of work hours for its people without problems."
The contract, with a starting salary of $11,632 retroactive to November, 1976, includes an education incentive plan for firefighters seeking degrees in engineering, fire science, business administration and chemistry or physics.
Council member Samuel W. Bogley cast the only desenting vote because he said, the incentive plan was included in the contract. "I thought we had an understanding to do away with this program. I suppose we will have to do the same thing now for the police," said Bogley.
The necessity for incentive plans were heavily debated during budget sessions in April. Many council members, including Bogley, thought they were too costly.
"But the firefighters and police are two of the more popular organized groups," said Bogley. "They probably wanted to get this through (in the three-year contract settlement) to by-pass the elections next year."
The council also authorized a pay increase for the chairman of the County Planning Board, W.C. (Bud) Dutton, Jr.
A colorful and sometimes controversial figure known as the "squire of the patuxent" because of his home on the Patuxent River, Dutton also serves the county as a full-time member of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
He is slated to receive a five per cent cost of living increase putting his salary at $37,275 a year.
Council chairman William B. Amonett said Dutton was "certainly deserving" of the increase, which will put him at the same level as other county department heads.