Sunday, June 1, 2008

     

 

 

 

Commissioners split over new jailer hirings
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Following a 75-minute discussion, the Henderson County Commissioners voted 3-2 to hire 12 new jailers to staff the newly expanded county jail Tuesday.
While the commissioners have known the jail expansion would require additional personnel – and built funds for those new employees into the current budget last fall – there were questions about when the jailers would be needed, and when the county might be able to see some income from out-of-county prisoners.
Jail Administrator Lt. Ben Kinder asked for authorization to begin the hiring process, noting the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) is tentatively scheduled to inspect the jail Thursday, June 5.
Currently, the jail has 81 employees, with 59 floor officers, Kinder reported. “That includes one open position,” he added.
Once the new expansion section is cleared by the TCJS, all prisoners now held by the county (about 200), along with those prisoners held in out-of-county jails (currently 42), can be held in the new section while the current jail is being remodeled, Kinder said.
“It will take one or two weeks for the hiring process,” he added. “We’re hoping to train (the new employees) to handle a pod in two weeks. Full training will take six to eight weeks.”
A pod holds 48 prisoners, and under TCJS rules, a full staff is needed whether the pod is full or holds only a couple of prisoners, Kinder said. The new expansion will boost the area officers need to cover by 50,000 square feet, he added.
Kinder said he was hoping to finish a staffing assessment for the remainder of the jail in the next week or so.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry West recalled the court was told an additional 24 jailers would be needed during budget talks last summer.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said he noted a discrepancy in the proposed budget and the actual budget, adding the budget he was looking at was dated Dec. 17, 2007.
“I was under the impression we budgeted for 24,” county judge David Holstein said.
Holstein added the discrepancy McKinney might be referring to was the difference between the annual salaries for 24 positions, and staffing costs for nine months, the anticipated period of actual need.
Those 24 jailers would cost about $630,000 for a full year, compared to about $480,000 for nine months, Holstein explained.
“With these 12, that will bring our out-of-county prisoners back,” Kinder said. “We’ll probably look at having that (staffing) talk later. Producing revenue (from out-of-county prisoners) will be dependent on that other staffing.”
Some jailers are need to cover “security breaches” during the remodeling of the existing jail, Kinder said.
He explained “breaches” were areas where prisoners might be able to get out of the building, such as through a temporary wall, during the remodeling.
“When the renovations are done, they can be rolled back into the jail staff,” Kinder said.
“We’re also putting together a sales presentation to track out-of-county prisoners,” Holstein said.
The county needs to have everything in place, including contracts, in order to start generating revenue as soon as possible from holding out-of-county prisoners, Holstein said.
“We’re not going to bring in other counties’ prisoners until we’re finished, and I don’t expect that (revenue) until after the first of the year,” West said.
“We’re shooting for (accepting prisoners) Sept. 1,” Holstein said. “So, we’ll have this discussion on full staffing in another four weeks.”
“I would say we are not interested in out-of-county (prisoners) until we’re operational,” McKinney said. “Handling our own people is our first priority.”
“Would eight people do the job?” Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall asked.
“We could start with eight, and if that’s not enough, we could come back later,” Kinder said.
“You need to give us a time line on when you’ll need these officers,” Holstein said. “We need to plan to be operational Sept. 1.”
McKinney said he wanted to table the hiring request for more information, but Hall pointed out, “This is a time-sensitive issue.”
“We are going to need some right now,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence agreed. “I think they (the sheriff’s office) are trying to way overstaff, but we do need to get started hiring.”
“I want all your stacking options, so the court can make a decision on the most economical way (to staff),” McKinney told Kinder.
“We’re going to need 12, and we may not have them hired quickly,” West said. “If you approve 12 (jailers), 12 are not going to be on the payroll tomorrow.
“We’ve known we were going to need 12 for two years,” West added.
“They didn’t tell us until today they were going to bring in out-of-county inmates,” McKinney said.
“That has nothing to do with the 12 they’re going to need,” West replied.
“If the jail can handle 288 and we only have 200 Henderson County residents, we need to fill those 88 beds,” Holstein said.
West made the motion to hire 12 jailers as requested, and Lawrence added a second.
“All of this conversation is very valid, but it’s going to take weeks to hire these folks and get them trained,” Lawrence explained.
West, Lawrence and Holstein voted in favor of hiring 12, while McKinney and Hall opposed.
In other business, the commissioners:
• approved agreements with the cities of Payne Springs and Tool to assist in drainage maintenance and road repairs.
The three-year agreement with Tool is in its final year, Hall noted.
• approved a revised dedication plaque for the new jail, which added the names of the architectural firm (Burns Architecture of Fort Worth) and the construction firm (Templeton Construction of San Angelo).
• accepted bids on overlay paving, janitorial supplies and mat service as recommended.
• paid bills totaling $889,292.03, which included $410,000 on the jail expansion project.

Council considers new seal and flag
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Any revisions to the city’s seal and flag should come after as much citizen input as possible, the Gun Barrel City Council agreed.
Two new council members, Melvin Hayes and Kevin Banghart, also assumed their seats during Tuesday’s regular council session.
On the agenda’s final item, councilman Todd Hogan submitted a proposed drawing for a revised city seal and flag, noting he did not intend to make wholesale changes.
The original city logo was provided by the Texas Railroad Commission, while the city’s original flag – actually a tapestry – was designed by Loretta Taylor back in 1976, Hogan reported.
Mrs. Taylor’s design was accepted by the city council July 12, 1976, and Hogan said he wanted the seal and flag to remain close what had been approved in the city’s early days.
“I want to give credit to the people who have done such great work in the past, like Mrs. Taylor,” Hogan said.
Similarly, the city’s motto – “We shoot straight with you” – was credited to Timbertrails addition resident Jim Malone, who won $50 for the slogan in 1975, according to newspaper reports.
“I want to try to build what has already been established,” Hogan said. “This rendering is just that – a rendering.”
“The flag of our country changed as the country grew,” councilman Charles Townsend said. “Maybe it is time to bring this up-to-date.”
“I would think before we could do anything, we need to set up a (citizens) committee,” councilwoman Kathy Cochran said. “I don’t feel we can adopt this tonight.”
“I agree,” Hogan said. “We need more community input.”
If the city does develop a new seal and flag, the adoption should be handled by an ordinance, city manager Gerry Boren said, “so it doesn’t get lost in a minutes order.”
Council members voted unanimously to take no action on the proposal, pending more citizen input.
In other business, the council:
• heard Boren report a recount of the May 10 balloting for Place 2 on the council had been requested by write-in candidate John Earl Gregg, who paid the required fee.
The recount, conducted by Boren, city secretary Christy Eckerman and three citizens, found Gregg actually received two fewer votes than originally noted. Hayes was elected to the Place 2 seat, 74-39.
Council members accepted the recount and approved an amended ordinance declaring the results official.
• witnessed city judge Jack Holland swear in Hayes and Place 4 winner Banghart. Townsend was selected as the mayor pro-tem.
• discussed two items in the consent agenda at length, the financial report and the Economic Development Corporation report.
Cochran questioned street supervisor Mike Horton about street work funded with tax money diverted from the EDC, and Townsend questioned the status of the S.O. Sportsplex project, partially funded by the EDC.
Following the discussion, the council approved those items as presented.
• heard Boren report work would begin on a bridge replacement project on Welch Lane either Tuesday, June 3, or Tuesday, June 10.
The three-phase, $150,000 project will take 30 to 45 days to complete, and will require drivers to detour off the existing road while new box culverts are installed, Boren said.
Drivers will be very close to workers, so the speed limit in the construction area will be 10 mph. “We will have signs and barricades up,” Boren added.

ECC adds final stage clarifier
Monitor Staff Reports
GUN BARREL CITY–East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District water and wastewater projects in the planning stages since 2005 finally are coming to completion.
Dredging Prairie Creek Cove was recently completed, and now another project at the North Wastewater Treatment Plant is well underway.
The district’s utility permit is dependent on the success of both projects.
The $1.04 million third-stage clarifier project anticipates completion sometime in July.
It is a key and final element of a mechanical process to reduce the levels of phosphorus in treated wastewater being discharged into Cedar Creek Lake.
The discharge permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) sets new limits for phosphorus levels in discharged treated wastewater.
ECCFWSD’s previous permit only required recording and reporting phosphorus levels, which averaged about 5 to 6 milligrams per liter (mg/l), district general manager Bill Goheen said.
Under new TCEQ rules, the district’s new permit, which the utility holds now on a conditional basis, requires phosphorus levels to be reduced to 1 mg/l or less in discharged wastewater. That’s a five-fold reduction, Goheen pointed out.
“Phosphorus is a nutrient which aides in the formation and reproduction of algae, which is becoming a problem in many reservoirs throughout the nation,” Goheen explained.
Currently, the ECCFWSD includes a phosphorus-reducing chemical when treating wastewater.
“It has reduced the (phosphorus) level considerably, and at times we are below the 1 mg/l (limit),” he said.
However, the results have been inconsistent, due to other factors in the treatment process, he added.
When the third clarifying tank is on-line, it will add a final stage in the process. Phosphorus-reducing chemicals will be added to the water as it leaves the primary clarifier on its way to the secondary clarifier.
The water then travels to the third (new) tank, where the results of the chemicals’ work is measurable.
In the third clarifier, most of the phosphorus will separate from the water molecules and sink to the bottom. The clear water (with less than 1 mg of phosphorus per liter) is then skimmed off the top for discharge back into the lake from whence it came.
“We are looking forward to having the new tertiary clarifier completed, so we have the capability to be in full compliance,” Goheen said.


Red River Construction completes forms for a tertiary
clarifier at the North Waste Water Treatment Plant May
22. When completed, the tank will make it possible for
East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District to comply
with stricter discharge standards. Completion is expected in July.

 Terrific tykes get bikes


Monitor Photo/Lynn Dyba
Two outstanding Tool Elementary students from each grade level, pre-k to fifth
grade, won bicycles as end of year awards Tuesday. The winners are (left to right)
Jade Gonzales, Jack Cantrell, Trey Long, Brenna Dixon, Taylor Long, Nolan Sims,
Maggie Alberda, Austin Long, Alina Shoemaker, Rawling Dixon, Katy Mandurjano,
Logan Lukens, Miranda Webb and Dylan Wilson. All outstanding students by grade
level were included in the drawing. Principal Bill Morgan expects Tool Elementary
to be rated as a Recognized campus by Texas Education Agency. Thirty-three students
earned commended ratings on TAKS tests, many multiple times. See more coverage
on Tool Elementary in Thursday’s issue of The Monitor.




 


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