REGION — Franklin County Sheriff’s Department is looking to add an infirmary to its detention center as they contend with staffing issues. Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. and Jail Administrator Major Douglas Blauvelt appeared before the Franklin County Budget Advisory Committee on Tuesday, April 11, to speak on their budget items.

According to Blauvelt, they have lost six long term correctional officers in the last year and a half, which has stretched current staff members thin.

“It’s a different day and age,” Blauvelt explained. “We are working hard, but we are getting burned out.”

Blauvelt stated they currently have 12 correctional officers and that most of them are working in excess of 80 hours a week. The staffing is such as issue that vacation and holiday requests are difficult to approve due to insufficient staff.

When asked about the nature of these departures, Blauvelt stated that many left due to the nature of the job, but he also stressed that many of the correctional officers that are still there are very dedicated to their work.

“There are some there that are very dedicated, but if I don’t get them help, they are not going to be there,” Blauvelt told the committee.


Sheriff Nichols also added that he has experienced the difficulties of trying to hire new personnel, stating that he had two candidates turn down job offers because of the benefits.

“What kept them away wasn’t so much the pay, it was the benefits,” he said.

According to Nichols, the low starting pay for new hires [$18.31 per hour to start, $18.81 after training is completed] combined with the high cost of health benefits [roughly $1,000 per month, according to Nichols] makes it difficult to attract and retain personnel. Nichols hopes a reduction in healthcare costs will help with this issue.

“I think once we get that reduced, that will really help us out as far as employees and retention not just at the jail, but with all of county government,” he added.

Nichols went on to explain one of the increases in the budget was in replacing their old medical provider with a new, more expensive option, which he believes will be beneficial overall. He also stated that he wishes to add an infirmary to the jail using ARPA funds.

“We’re one of the few jails in the state that don’t have an infirmary,” Nichols stated. “This will give us the opportunity to have actual sealed cells, so that there is no risk of contamination.”


Currently, medical personnel operate out of a closet at the jail, according to Nichols.

Chairperson Tiffany Maiuri asked if the staffing issue was affecting intake rates at the jail, to which Blauvelt said no.

Maiuri, who also serves on the Wilton Select Board, engaged in a discussion with the select board on Tuesday, April 4, about a letter that was sent out by the sheriff’s office to police chiefs across Franklin County.

Wilton Selectperson Mike Wells brought the letter, which was released on March 8, to the board’s attention, believing it to be concerning.

“We’ve had several prisoners that have been refused at the jail,” Wells stated. “So I’ve been talking to a commissioner as well as [Sheriff Nichols] to find out why the higher refusal rate because it doesn’t fall in with the verbiage that Sheriff Nichols sent out.”

In his letter, Nichols expressed understanding over the frustration and animosity officers have been experiencing in having jail intake refused because of medical reasons relating to illegal substances.


He explained that if a suspect admits to taking an illegal substance, they are to be taken to the Emergency Room for evaluation before they can be admitted for incarceration, which will lead to the officer in question detained for a period of time, reducing coverage for their department. Nichols also said that the Sheriff’s Department will try to alleviate this issue by providing more coverage while the officer is occupied with the suspect.

The primary reason for this is to avoid liability, with the increased potential for injury, either self-inflicted or to other inmates and staff.

According to Wells, a person with an active warrant was refused and released to the public when the suspect claimed to have MRSA, which Nichols refutes, stating that the person in question was never in their custody.

“The officer called the jail wanting to know if the jail could take a prisoner with MRSA who had open wounds,” Nichols stated in an email. “Our medical person suggested that if it could be handled any other way it would be best, because we do not have the ability to house them separate from the general population.”

Moving forward, Nichols hopes the addition of an infirmary, along with other changes, will help the jail continue to serve Franklin County effectively.

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