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County opts for short-term jail fix

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SanJacCountySealBy Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — The San Jacinto County Commissioners Court approved using funds budgeted for unfilled position to offer a month’s worth of overtime pay, with a promise of looking at the issue again in February.

At the Jan. 11 meeting, Chief Deputy Tim Kean said the Sheriff’s Department is near a crisis point and was looking for help.

A letter from Sheriff Greg Capers, which Kean read to the commissioners, states that a possible solution to staffing issues would be paying overtime pay to jailers, instead of current offering only comp time.

Capers said the solution would not include any additional taxpayer funds. He states that income from housing inmates from other counties has been averaging more than $60,000 a month; since the staffing issue at the jail is in critical shape — the department is short 11 jailers.

In the letter, Capers said that six jailers left in one day, moving on to jobs in Walker County, which pays overtime. Polk County also provides overtime pay.

The county is losing jailers because we don’t pay overtime while all surrounding counties do, the letter states.

Capers writes that overtime would cost about $10,000 per month at current staffing levels; as staffing goes up, though, overtime costs will go down. Adopting the proposal, at least on a trial basis, should help solve the staffing issues.

Faulkner said that the county went through a similar issue six months ago, and that every nickel of revenue that comes into the county is accounted for, and it’s all spent.

“It’s all spent,” he said. “If it’s the will of the court, I could go along with using unspent funds from unfilled positions.”

Faulkner reminded the court that the funds from housing prisoners was accounted for, and the court approved raises for county employees and elected officials. Diverting those funds could mean layoffs, he said.

Commissioner Laddie McAnnally proposed sending all out-of-county prisoners back until their own jail facilities can get back lost personnel.

District Attorney Todd Dillon pointed out that the county’s inmate population is mostly felons, and given that court calendars are structured such that only 12 weeks a year are used for trials, it’s hard to keep the population down.

The county did not amend its budget or its pay policy to allow for overtime, but authorized $10,000 on a one-time trial basis, as long as there are concrete figures available, which is to be used to pay jailers only, and not any deputies that are filling in as jailers.

In a related matter, the county approved retiring four Crown Victoria used by the Sheriff’s Department and will offer the vehicles for auction.

In other business, the commissioners:

•discussed ordering a land survey on property the county has up for sale;

•discussed removing a crossover near the intersection of Highway 59 and FM 1127;

•approved extending a lease for office space to the county Health and Human Services Commission for one year;

•discussed renewing the Vidanyx system contract for the District Attorney’s Office;

•approved changing the mileage rate from 62.5 cents per mile to 65.5 cents

•approved bond renewals for Tracy Galloway;

•approved updates on the county’s financial goals and policies and federal grant procurement policies;

•declared items as surplus and approved offering the items for auction;

•approved a lot split in the Samuel Folger survey abstract; and

•accepted an agreement with Kelly Hoot for dumping unusable material.

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