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Jackson struggles to attract and keep public employees

Published March 18, 2017 5:42 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jackson, Wyo. • When winter weather conditions closed almost every road in out of Jackson in early February, Teton County was left without most of its first responders because they couldn't get to work.

"We were struggling to get necessary emergency services personnel to work," Teton County Sheriff Jim Whalen told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. "The vulnerabilities of not having adequate staff living locally was definitely exposed."

Most of Teton County's public employees live outside the county because the cost of living in Jackson Hole is too expensive.

Only three of the 23 patrol deputies with the Sheriff's Office live locally. Of the remaining deputies, about half live in Victor, Idaho, and the other half live in Lincoln County.

A dozen of the 31 sworn officers of the Jackson Police Department call Teton County home.

Forty-seven percent of Jackson's critical workers, including snowplow drivers, live outside Teton County.

Whalen said the main problem for employees is the high cost of housing in Jackson Hole.

According to one Jackson real estate report, the median listed price of homes in the Jackson area was $3.2 million at the end of 2016.

The town and county help provide rental housing for employees.

"The trouble is there is not always one available or the right fit for the employee and their family," Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith said.

Much of the housing offered is small, with room for only one or two people. Officers often end up leaving for a place where they can save money and buy a home, Smith said.

Deputy Jesse Willcox, a Jackson native and 10-year member of the sheriff's office, commutes between Victor to Jackson five to seven days a week.

"It's frustrating as a first responder not to be able to live in the community you work for because you can't afford it," Willcox said.

It also raises concern when emergency responders are needed, Willcox said.

"First responders are people who need to be available in short fashion," he said.






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