County issues become contentious
By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — Sparks flew at the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court meeting on April 26 over vehicles for the Sheriff’s Office and software training for the District Clerk’s staff.
Sheriff Woody Wallace said his department is in desperate need of new vehicles and asked the county to use COVID grant funds dedicated for law enforcement to pay for the vehicles outright through Grapevine Dodge, instead of leasing new vehicles.
However, Commissioner Neal Smith pointed out that last year, the county approved a lease agreement with Enterprise Fleet for new police vehicles at a contentious meeting. At that time, Smith and others had reservations about the agreement because the county could not get figures regarding the cost of the deal.
The county approved the lease agreement in March 2021. Enterprise was to lease five new vehicles initially, and then evaluate the status of the fleet and make decision on other replacements each quarter.
However, County Treasurer Bob Dockens said he had misgivings about the agreement, which led to a separate meeting involving all departments, and the eventual approval of the leases.
At the April 26meeting, however, Wallace said that Enterprise was unable to provide vehicles, and needed to purchase vehicles to get the office out of its immediate crisis.
Smith reminded Wallace about those contentious meetings.
“When we talked about this the last time, there were cheerleaders here, and we had to be in the top storey,” Smith said. “Where are they at today to admit that Enterprise was not a good deal?”
Wallace said that last year the commission made it clear that it did not want to give its consent to the lease agreement, even though the measure was approved.
“I’ve given and given a little bit, and now you want to criticize me for that?” Wallace said.
The sheriff said that while the county is leasing three vehicles from Enterprise, the company cannot find any more vehicles, and arguing about leasing vs. buying was beside the point.
Wallace also took the commission to task about leasing equipment for the various road departments, which is done without any discussion.
County Judge Doug Page suggested that the county consider doing a buyout of the three vehicles from Enterprise the county currently has, and the consider canceling its contract.
County Auditor Bonnie Kennedy said that with the funds currently budgeted for the Enterprise lease, the county needed to add just $15,000 to affect the purchase, which was expected to be $120,000. Smith made the motion for approval.
In a separate matter, the county approved taking $7,950 out of reserves to ensure that payroll for the District Clerk’s Office would be funded through the end of the fiscal year.
District Clerk Kristine Raiford said not enough money was budgeted for part-time help, and that more was necessary to help the office catch up from its move to a different office as well as the transition of leadership, as Raiford did not win re-election to the office.
In discussing the monthly report, however, Raiford said that a problem with software training meant that her office could not generate the required information. She said that information was received by Dockens’ office which was not given to her.
However, Dockens told Raiford not to put her issues on his office, and left the room for the duration of the meeting.
In other business, the county:
•discussed releasing female prisoners on recognizance bonds because there is no place to house them in the county, and no other jail will take them;
•discussed hiring jail personnel to help alleviate overtime. Wallace said he has people out on extended medical leave;
•declared non-working county property, including sheriff’s vehicles, as salvage;
•approved providing county cell phones to justices of the peace for all precincts at a cost of $839.88;
•approved issuing county credit cards for JPs Lyle Stubbs and Keith Johnson;
•tabled a decision about enacting a burn ban;
•approved an agreement between County Attorney Colton Hay and Commissioner Steven Truss regarding county equipment on private property to clean out drainage ditches;
•approved an agreement between Chancey Woodrick and Commissioner Tommy Park allowing Park to haul off concrete railings on Sonny Sailer Road;
•approved negotiating with DRG architects for a possible Trinity County Jail Project; and
•approved creating a special line item for child safety fees collected by the Tax Assessor/Collector’s Office. The funds will be issued to non-profit, related agencies.
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