The school had originally approved paying more than $73,000 for the officers, but the court then voted 3-2 recently to set the price at $90,000, which the school board subsequently approved. The deputies will have vehicles.
In two separate related votes Monday, commissioners approved taking those vehicles out of surplus and approving a budget amendment which would allow spending up to $2,820 for repairing them.
While Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka voted for all the actions, he expressed reservations about furnishing vehicles to the officers. Berka said the cars had been deemed not “road worthy,” and that taking a student away from school in a vehicle defeated the purpose of having an officer on campus.
Berka also said having a sign on campus stating that the Sheriff’s Office was protecting the school served the same purpose as having vehicles. However, School Supt. Carl Key told the court he preferred having vehicles to signage.
As for Berka’s concern about the vehicles’ road worthiness, some court members indicated the cars were merely high-mileage autos.
In other action, the court discussed, but decided not to impose an outdoor burn ban related to recent dry weather.
County Judge Dean Fowler said the Texas Forest Service had advised him Friday conditions didn’t warrant such a ban. Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer said he had been advised Sunday night they now did, but that a ban wouldn’t be needed if it rained.
The judge and commissioner both expressed concern that instituting a ban would result in citizens all doing burning at once when the prohibition was lifted. Upon hearing that, Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry asked if the court could legally lift the ban one precinct at a time.
Fowler said he didn’t know, and Mrs. Gentry accepted his request to check with the Texas Association of Counties on that. Spencer suggested staying in touch with the Texas Forest Service on whether a ban was needed.
In other business, after considerable discussion, the court approved posting an opening for a temporary part-time clerk in Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch’s Gladewater office.
Mrs. Gentry said Mrs. Welch was seeking a clerk to be trained by current clerk Mary Hicks, who will retire at September’s end. But Berka expressed concern about the cost of a full-time new clerk because of the county’s financial woes.
Discussion about having a volunteer fill the job prompted County Treasurer Myra Harris to point out that the job opening must be posted, and County Auditor Janice Tucker to add that a volunteer must be bonded.
Mrs. Welch told the court she didn’t think anyone would work only “for their health.” She said she wanted to maintain her office’s “productivity,” and Mrs. Harris said Mrs. Welch’s office is bringing in “quite a bit” of revenue for the county.
The court finally approved seeking a temporary clerk to work four hours daily for six weeks at $8 hourly. Before the vote, Judge Welch said, “I think we could handle that.”
The court also discussed with various elected officials, but took no action on, instituting a 4-day work week as Fowler said an elected officer can set his/her office’s own hours and “Commissioners Court doesn’t just order it done a certain way.”
Spencer said he had the item put on the agenda for discussion after County Clerk Brandy Lee mentioned the possibility to him, but she said the 4-day week was not her idea.
District Clerk Carolyn Parrott said her office “is all for” a 4-day week, but other officials seemed cool to the idea. County Treasurer Harris said she had allowed her employees to work four 10-hour shifts while she worked Fridays by herself, but that she would return workers to 8-hour shifts in several weeks.
Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack said she didn’t think a 4-day week would “work for my office.” Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Lyle Potter said he is available on Fridays and that his office’s schedule is “working fine,” while Pct. 3 JP Welch said Friday is “a real busy day” in her office.
Judge Welch added that the Gladewater substation with her office and a branch of the Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office is “a busy place every day of the week.”
Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner and Berka said a 4-day week would work well for the Road and Bridge Dept., whose administrator isn’t an elected official, but Hefner said “the public expects” five working days for offices in general.
Upshur County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Miles Jr. objected to a 4-day work week for road/bridge workers, indicating he thought that would leave them an excessive amount of work to do at one time on improving oil-top roads and removing tree limbs.
The court also voted Monday to seek additional proposals for telephone services, requring bids be submitted by 5 p.m. Aug. 14 to be opened at the court’s Aug. 15 meeting.
Spencer said Telephone Specialists, Inc., of Gilmer had submitted a good bid, but that he learned of other interest in making a proposal.
In other business, in a matter which engendered considerable discussion, Fowler cast the tiebreaking vote in a 3-2 conditional decision to move a postage machine from District Clerk Parrott’s office to the old law library at the county Justice Center.
The machine will be under the supervision of one of District Attorney Billy Byrd’s workers.
Mrs. Tucker indicated she thought that would allow easier accessibility to the machine than in Mrs. Parrott’s office, and reduce traffic entering that office to use it. Mrs. Parrott said she didn’t care whether the court moved the machine or not and “I’ll be glad to give it up.”
The move was approved only if it costs nothing, and a code lock will be placed on the machine. Mrs. Gentry and Hefner voted for the move, but Fowler cast the decisive vote when Berka and Spencer opposed her motion.
In other business Monday, the court:
• Approved giving away surplus tires if takers will sign a general liability release.
• Approved paying a $98 invoice from D’s Locksmith for courthouse security work.
• Heard Hefner report on progress of the ongoing renovation of the courthouse basement.
Commissioners were also to hold a separate 1:30 p.m. session Monday on considering health insurance plans for county employees.