By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners Court discussed how it will handle an unfunded mandate regarding election equipment in time for the March primary.
At its Jan. 9 meeting, Elections Administrator Priscilla Rasbeary said the state has required new equipment for all counties regarding tabulation, and the new equipment is not compatible with the current machines the county uses.
Rasbeary said she had found out about the mandate about a month ago.
To acquire the new machines, Rasbeary said it would cost in the area of $244,000, prompting Commissioner Neal Smith to ask how much money is being sent to the county, which was none.
There are grants and financing options available, Rasbeary said, and the manufacturers will even delay the first payment until the next budget cycle, but the new items were to be used in the March primary.
Smith said that puts the county in a predicament, since there wasn’t funds in the budget for the purchase, but with the mandate, it could put the county “in contempt.”
“This needs to happen at budget time,” Smith said. “This ain’t gonna happen for this election.”
County Judge Danny Martin said that they could join the inmates in the already full county jail.
Ultimately, Rasbeary and County Auditor Bonnie Kennedy will research options, include a lease program similar to the one used for county road equipment. The court then tabled the measure.
In a separate matter, the court approved budget amendments necessary to put on four new full-time jailers, required by the state to comply with the larger inmate count the jail will have.
The Sheriff’s Office received a variance from the state to house more prisoners and the current seven, but it must have jailers on duty around the clock, requiring more help.
Commissioners questioned the need for the amendment, since at the time of its presentation the positions were not filled and the prisoner count remained at seven.
While the budget amendments passed, Smith pointed out that the reason to house more prisoners — lower costs — will not be realized given the new expenses at the local jail.
In other business, the court:
•approved the slate of election judges for the 2024 election year; and
•approved election contracts with the Republican and Democratic parties for the primary election in March.