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County approves modified contract with Groveton

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030724 countyTrinity County Tax Assessor/Collector Nancy Shanafelt donates funds to Trinity County Child Protective Services. Courtesy photo

By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners Court approved a contract with the city of Groveton for law enforcement protection, with less of the fireworks from the previous meeting but with additional funds requested by the court.

The new contract, approved at the regular meeting on Feb. 27, contains an additional $5,000 for fuel costs.

The additional funds were a source of contention between the county and Sheriff Woody Wallace, so much so that County Judge Danny Martin said at the beginning of the meeting that Robert’s Rules of Order will be strictly enforced.

Commissioner Mike Loftin said during public comments that after the last meeting, he was bombarded by phone calls asking him why the court meeting was like a circus. Because of that, he urged Martin to take back control of the meetings.

“We need order, and we need respect for the court,” Loftin said.

Also during the public forum, Wallace said he chose to speak then because he felt he was intentionally being left out of negotiations, and he wanted 3 uninterrupted minutes to make his case.

Wallace said the additional funds requested by the county had already been factored into the original contract, and that the residents of Groveton pay taxes that benefit the county as well. He also said that the county, by changing the terms of the contract, will give the impression that the sheriff is not as good as his word.

“This contract will benefit the county more than the city, because we’ll get more deputies out on the street,” he said.

He said it was the intention of the court that the additional money would be placed into the general fund and not the budget for the Sheriff’s Office, which actually contains fuel funding.

The contract was designed to provide much-needed law enforcement for the city, and the two additional deputies that were to be hired would become city police officers once the contract has expired, Wallace said, and that the county needed to approve the agreement as it was originally presented.

Martin said during the contract debate that the negotiation shouldn’t have been a big deal, but Wallace made it that way.

Wallace left before County Attorney Colton Hay could say the reason the Sheriff’s Office was removed from the contract is that it cannot enter into such agreements, only the court could.

Wallace said after the meeting that the contract as originally designed was to provide the necessary enforcement, while also saving the city money so it can work on infrastructure needs in the ensuing two years. It would provide a deputy providing law enforcement within a 5-mile radius of the city and would have the assistance of the full department.

Wallace said he had two viable candidates ready to hire, but now they have gone since they could not wait around for the negotiations to conclude.

“Knowing I’ve already given my word to the city council, I’m not sure what they were trying to do,” Wallace said. “It’s really aggravating. I’ve already got to provide law enforcement, and this would have put two more officers on the street. Why negotiate it?

“Never in my life have I seen a group of people try to run other people’s offices,” he said.

At the court session, Groveton Mayor Ralph Bennett urged the commissioners to abide by the original agreement.

Martin said the county would not consider the original agreement as fuel costs have risen; Loftin said that $5,000 is nothing given the city has a $250,000 budget for law enforcement.

“This minimal add-on is to ensure the county doesn’t spend money it shouldn’t,” Loftin said.

Commissioner Neal Smith said the county did not mind helping, but it shouldn’t be at the county’s expense.

The contract was approved with Commissioners Tommy Park and Steven Truss voting against it. It now will be presented to the Groveton City Council for their approval.

In other business, the county:

•approved an agreement with PHI for allowing payroll deduction for an option to expand coverage;

•approved accepting credit card payments at the District Clerk’s Office;

•appointed Nancy Shanafelt as Texas Association of Counties Healthy County Wellness sponsor;

•awarded the bid for grant management to GrantWorks for the Home Investment Partnership Grant Program;

•approved seeking bids for grant administration for the Trinity County Hazard Mitigation Plan, and for engineering services for the Water SMART Planning and Project Design Grant;

•approved a donation of rip wrap from Hawg Heaven; and

•approved enrollment of county employees in the TAC Cybersecurity Training Course.


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