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Jail officers question need for zoo worker

By Staff
COUNTY ZOO Lauderdale County employee Guy Davis, an inmate supervisor who oversees daily chores at the Q.V. Sykes recreational park, feeds rabbits at a new county zoo. The zoo, the subject of considerable controversy in recent days, also has goats, chickens, sheep and a pony. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
April 17, 2002
When Maj. Doris Callahan of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department arrived at work Tuesday, the people she supervises at the county jail were looking for answers she couldn't provide.
Callahan, the jail administrator, said most of her detention officers were upset county supervisors voted to pay a part-time worker at a planned county zoo more than officers at the jail.
County supervisors voted 3-2 Monday to hire former elections commissioner Henry Stringfellow to work 20 hours a week at the zoo for $8 an hour. The zoo is planned for the Q.V. Sykes Recreation Center.
Minutes later, supervisors voted unanimously to promote Lowell Shinn to a full-time jail corrections officer and hired Derek Earl Thomas as a part-time jail employee. Pay for both jobs is $7.54 an hour.
Supervisor Q.V. Sykes of District 4, who has backed the zoo since last fall, could not be reached for comment and did not return phone calls. Stringfellow also could not be reached for comment and did not return calls.
Sykes' plan originally called for a "petting zoo" with ducks, chickens, goats, a rabbit and a pony at the recreation park. Sykes now calls it a "zoo" because people won't be able to touch the animals.
Supervisor Jimmie Smith of District 2 on Monday defended the hiring of Stringfellow. Smith said people shouldn't compare Stringfellow's pay with jail officers' pay.
Lauderdale County has 63 detention officers.
They receive on-the-job training when they start work and have one year to earn certification through classes at Meridian Community College, paid for by the county.
Once the officers are certified and have been employed for at least six months, their pay is bumped up to $8 an hour.
The detention officers receive two uniforms a year; they also have health insurance coverage and state retirement benefits. But, Callahan said, their hourly pay is the issue.