By Tony Farkas
COLDSPRING — Jail staffing and pay rates were the main topics of discussion during the first San Jacinto County Commissioners Court budget hearing on Wednesday.
Following the court’s regular meeting, Chief Tim Kean said the Sheriff’s Department needs assistance to alleviate the problem of staffing at the jail.
Kean said that there’s 25 jailer positions budgeted, but only 14 are filled; jailers are working 14-hour days 6 days a week, and it’s creating a safety situation.
“We need to hire 11 jailers, and we don’t have any resources to attract people,” he said. “Everybody else around pays more than us. We have not had a jailer application in months; nobody will apply because we don’t pay anything.”
Kean said that since the jail is bringing in close to $1 million a year for housing prisoners, that money could be dedicated to the jail; however, County Judge Fritz Faulkner said those funds go into the general fund, and since the jail budget is more than $2 million annually, they’re getting all of the income.
He proposed raising jailer pay $3.52 per hour for licensed jailers, $2.52 without. That gets things to $20 per hour for jailers.
A second option would be to hire outside staffing.
Pat Marion of Recana Secure Facilities his firm either could fully man the facility or provide assistance with hiring and retention.
“We can provide eligible applicants, get them hired and licensed, and we will take a $5,000 commission with a 30-day guarantee,” he said.
The county is opening itself up for potential litigation, or it could be shut down by the state, if it doesn’t solve its issues soon.
Kean said that while Recana did not give any specific figures, he said in previous discussions that it could cost $300,000 per month if the firm ran the jail.
County Judge Fritz Faulkner did not think that paying for another company to run the jail was a viable option.
The court took no action, but did direct Kean to have an action item regarding pay raises placed on the next agenda.
For the Elections Administrator, Vicki Shelly said that recent legislation requiring more hours to vote on the last two days of early voting will cost the county additional funds, but did not have any additional figures.
She said she wanted the county to be aware of the change for their budgeting.
In other business, the court:
•approved an interlocal agreement with NG911 Public Safety Answering Point Service;
•approved IRS tax inflation adjustments for medical reimbursement accounts to $3,050;
•approved automobile liability coverage with Texas Association of Counties;
•approved a materials hauling bid with MSR Transport;
•approved bond renewal for County Judge Fritz Faulkner;
•approved raising the credit card limits to $5,000 for Constable Sam Houston and the District Attorney’s Office, and issuing a second card to the DA;
•transferred a 12,000-pound wench to Precinct 2 Road Department;
•approved seeking bids for police vehicles; and
•took no action on changing its reimbursement policy.