Pay raises that Tazewell County’s jail officers have awaited for more than three years appear on the way after County Board approval Monday night.

They will come with a four-year contract that the board will likely adopt later this month, following its unanimous approval in a special meeting to accept an independent arbitrator’s findings.

The board’s vote March 29 will end more than two years of negotiations during which members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 98 have worked without a contract. Their last raise came in December 2013, the start of the previous contract’s last year.

The new four-year contract will award raises retroactively for all currently working jail officers for 2014 through 2017, for a total increase over that period of 7.5 percent, County Administrator Wendy Ferill said Tuesday.

“Hopefully we’ll have a contract in place before (the new one) expires” in November 2018, she said.

Several issues in addition to the retroactive, yearly wage increases stalled negotiations between the jailers’ union and the Sheriff’s Department that required settlement through an arbitrator, Ferill said.

They included health insurance premiums and changes in compensatory time, versus overtime, for the jailers. For the latter, the arbitrator sided with Sheriff Robert Huston, who sought to cap compensatory time at 40 hours per year “because we had abuses,” with overtime awarded after that limit, Ferill said.

Shift assignments to ensure that female jail officers were available for all shifts, to cover duties involving women jail inmates that only female guards can perform under state law, also were addressed by the arbitrator.

Huston also won the arbitrator’s approval to hire and fire corrections officers without involvement of a county merit commission, Ferill said.

If the proposed contract is approved at the board’s next regular meeting, jail officers will receive raises of 1.5 percent for 2014, 1.75 percent for 2015, 2 percent for 2016 and 2.25 percent for 2017.

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