FARMINGTON — Several dozen guards who ensure safety for local schools, shops and government offices are struggling to get paid for their efforts.

The uniformed, unarmed guards claim they have had problems receiving their bi-monthly paychecks on time or cashing them when they do receive them.

The employer, Chief Building Services, a security-services company headquartered in

Phoenix, supplies security for commercial, private and government accounts.

Monday, several guards who work security for Farmington schools walked out at midday.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations for the school district James Barfoot was aware of the company's periodic payroll problems but said that the schools have never been directly affected by it.

"We have a four-year contract for nine guards — four at Farmington High, four at Piedra Vista and one at Rocinante during evening classes," Barfoot said. "This is the first time that it's starting to look serious," he said of the payroll complaints.

The school district has a contract for the nine guards worth close to $90,000 for 180 school days each year, Barfoot said.

"We bid every four years, but if they have a problem paying their employees, we will file a breach of contract," he said. "So far, we haven't had to do that."

Emails and phone calls to the company owner went unanswered Monday.

Part of the problem might be that the owner, Al Hawkins, is currently stationed in Afghanistan.

Hawkins, a former employee, bought the company two years ago, roughly when Farmington guards say the payroll problems began.

Elsie Sheyka stands guard at Piedra Vista High School, but says she has had enough stress and financial hardship working for Chief Building Services.

She is now looking for work as a guard elsewhere.

"When our paychecks do come, they come late," said Sheyka, 38. "Then I spend time and gas trying to find someplace to cash it. It's too much trouble."

Sheyka, who commutes to work over an hour each way from Lukachukai, Ariz., said she still has a check from March she is unable to cash.

"I was able, finally, to cash an older check at Sunray Casino, but when I went back with my second March check, they became like all the others and I drove home without my money," she said.

She asked the Farmington branch of her employer for her pay to be directly deposited into her bank account, but was told the now-common payment option was unavailable.

Other guards who voiced complaints over their paycheck headaches declined to speak on the record for fear of retribution by their employer.

"Either we are treated fairly or we will leave," Sheyka said. "I'm frustrated and tired of this. I'm looking for a new job."

James Fenton can be reached at jfenton@daily-times.com; 505-564-4621. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/fentondt.