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Contract debate becomes heated

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Trinity Countyseal 200By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — Tempers flared at the Feb. 13 County Commissioners Court meeting over the details of a proposed contract with the city of Groveton to provide law enforcement.

Ultimately, Sheriff Woody Wallace said he will not abide by any contract negotiated by the Commissioners or County Judge Danny Martin, saying it was unfair to the residents of Groveton and would make him out to be someone who couldn’t keep his word.

At the Jan. 23 county meeting, Wallace told commissioners he was approached by city officials about a contract, since the city has been without law enforcement protection since October 23, when all officers were dismissed.

At that meeting, Commissioner Neal Smith expressed concern about the funds the city was providing and whether the funds would cover all costs, especially for vehicles, insurance and fuel.

The city, which has a budget of $250,000 for its police department, would pay $150,000 per year for two years for protection. Those funds would allow Wallace to hire an additional two deputies who will be tasked to patrol a 5-mile area around Groveton.

On Feb. 13, Smith and Martin reiterated the need for compensation for vehicles, and wanted to table approval of a contract until the additional funds were discussed.

However, Wallace said that to delay approving the contract would be foolish, and that he “didn’t appreciate you fooling around in my business.”

Martin disagreed with the characterization, saying the costs for gas and insurance have increased and he wanted to be sure the contract covered all costs.

Wallace reminded Martin that as of this time, the county is providing the protection at its cost, and with the contract, that would no longer be the case. He also said that the Sheriff’s Office did not need to provide vehicles since they already had them, paid for and insured.

Smith said he did not want to give county money away, and that he had nothing against Groveton but they’re required by law to provide protection.

Woody then cautioned the county, saying “do not run my Sheriff’s Office” after the court denied a motion from Commissioner Steven Truss to approve the contract as is.

Truss asked the court why the $5,000 for fuel was so important when the county gives away $5,000 each for Trinity and Groveton’s Christmas displays.

Smith put forth a motion to approve the contract with an additional $5,000 for vehicle costs added, which was seconded by Commissioner Mike Loftin. Smith, Loftin and Martin voted for approval, and Truss and Commissioner Tommy Park voted against the change.

Wallace stormed out of the meeting, admonishing the court that he will not abide by the contract and that the court members could not make him.

He said after the meeting that Groveton would still have what protection they could provide, but not with the additional two deputies.

In other business, the court:

•approved a contract between the county and the city of Groveton for its municipal election;

•approved the distribution of fees collected for Child Safety to four organizations. Boys and Girls Club of Trinity, Trinity County Child Protective Services, SAAFE House and Kalin’s Center will each receive $4,000;

•set a public hearing to deal with properties deemed nuisances;

•approved bond renewals for district judges;

•approved personnel action forms;

•approved renewal of an agreement for tracking services for the Affordable Care Act;

•received a safety award from TAC Risk Management for zero lost time;

•approved the refinance of Mack trucks for the road departments;

•approved the purchase of election tabulation equipment required by the state at a cost of $145,000, as well as the purchase of new poll books;

•approved a new waste, fraud and abuse policy;

•renewed a lease from Innovative Copier for the District Attorney’s Office;

•approved a renewal for rental of Pitney Bowes postage meters;

•approved the application for a water SMART grant;

•approved the application for a cybersecurity grant;

•approved a resolution for a federal off-system bridge program for a bridge on Reese Road; and

•set a county trash clean-up day for April 13.

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