By Tony Farkas
COLDSPRING — After discussing critically low staffing levels at the San Jacinto County Jail, the County Commissioners Court approved using grant funds to provide a $3 per hour raise to the pay of current licensed jailers.
While the bulk of the discussion was done behind closed doors, County Judge Fritz Faulkner said that Sheriff Greg Capers, through a letter read by Chief Deputy Tim Kean, that a state of emergency exists at the Sheriff’s Office, and that they are requesting immediate assistance from the county.
Faulkner said that according to the letter, Capers is unable to hire people or keep people on staff because prevailing wages are so low. Currently, the department has 20 positions on a 75-member staff.
Faulkner said the emergency exists in that if the jail is not properly staffed, the state Jail Commission can shut it down.
“If the sheriff says he has an emergency going on, we’ll respect his determination,” Faulkner said. “We feel we have some obligation to solve this problem.”
Kean told the court that the situation is bad enough that patrol officers have been used to staff the facility to keep it in compliance.
Commissioner Laddie McAnally moved for the raises, and included a codicil that an outside department was to be hired to assess sheriff office pay scales or any other problems that may exist. Jailers without a license will be moved to the new pay scale once a licensed is obtained.
“We can’t fix everything, but we’ve got to start somewhere,” Faulkner said.
In other business, the county:
• discussed changes in the flood plain maps and the possible effects within the county;
• approved a work-based learning agreement with Texas Workforce Solutions;
• approved May 24 as date for a runoff election, and four precinct locations;
• approved seeking a grant from the Texas Department of Emergency Management;
• approved hiring election officials for the runoff election;
• approved a bond renewal for Assistant District Attorney Robert Freyer, with Donnie Marrs abstaining;
• hired Southwest Architects for engineering services for a Sheriff’s Office;
• approved renewing property and mobile equipment coverage with Texas Association of Counties;
• approved declaring equipment as surplus;
• approved two subdivision plat revisions to combine several lots in the Waterwood Subdivision;
• approved purchasing crushed rock from TxDOT for $20.75 per ton;
• approved selling surplus guard rail items at auction;
• approved the purchase of four water heaters from Grainger for a price of $30,680, and to take the funds from the American Rescue Plan Act funds; and
• approved the purchase of lighting equipment for a new animal control building for $2,271.69.