Thursday, June 17, 2010

     
 

 

 

  Sheriff’s budget gets a boost
Church arson and increased court security takes toll on overtime budget
By Michael V. Hannigan
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Henderson County Commissioners added money to the Sheriff’s Office payroll for the second time in as many months this week.
Tuesday, commissioners approved a budget amendment that added $10,000 in overtime pay for courthouse security. The money came from the equipment line item of the courthouse security budget; the overtime budget was originally $10,000.
Sheriff Ray Nutt explained to commissioners that the increase was needed because district judges have been asking for more security.
“They are requesting more security and we’re trying to furnish it for them,” he said.
Henderson County Judge David Holstein said he had seen a need for increased security in his courtroom in recent years.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Lawrence questioned why courthouse security was overtime and was told that, because detention officers from the jail (who are licensed peace officers) provide the security when requested, the added courthouse security was billed at time and a half.
“Until someone tells me differently, I am going to furnish the security when (the judges) request it,” Nutt said.
In April, commissioners were told the Sheriff’s Office was already out of money in its regular overtime budget for 2010.
In an e-mail dated April 16, County Auditor Ann Marie Lee wrote, “There is no wiggle room in the Sheriff Dept. They need more money for tires, and I anticipate inmate medical, cafeteria supplies, and inmate hygiene will run short later in the year. …”
The county’s fiscal year runs January to December.
For 2010, commissioners budgeted $50,000 for Sheriff’s Office overtime, split evenly between jail operations and field operations.
Holstein said the low budget was set as a goal for the Sheriff’s Office to try and reach. In recent years, the combined overtime between field operations and the jail skyrocketed, costing $163,630 in 2008 and $224,400 in 2007.
Last year, however, Nutt was able to reign in the spending, dropping the overtime cost to around $90,000.
That price tag is in line with what the county paid in overtime in 2004 and 2005.
Holstein said the need for more detention officers during the jail’s expansion project accounted for much of the overtime increase in 2007 and 2008.
It was believed overtime could be reduced even more in 2010 since that construction project was finished and so many new officers have been added to the Sheriff’s Office in recent years.
According to Holstein, the Sheriff’s Office staff increased from 104 employees to 171 from 2005 to 2010.
The unpredictability of field operations is a big reason for the early overtime overrun, Holstein said, pointing specifically to the rash of Henderson County church fires early in the year.
Three churches were burned in Athens in January, quickly followed by related arson cases in Smith and Van Zandt counties.
Holstein said when that type of case comes up, the Sheriff’s Office has to respond.
“They pulled out all the stops in the church fire investigation and they caught (the arsonists),” he said, “but it was expensive.”

Land swap brings hospital closer
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The Gun Barrel City Council approved a three-acre land swap with East Texas Medical Center June 8, in preparation for the expansion of medical facilities at Cedar Creek Lake.
In a memorandum of understanding, the city agrees to swap a 3.26-acre tract on the east side of Municipal Drive for a parcel of the same size owned by ETMC and located on the south side of Meadow Lane, behind the Justice Center.
An appraisal puts their value at the same amount.
Lawyers from both side ironed the one kink in the deal – an exclusivity clause restricting the city’s land to be used for public purposes.
The parties agreed to switch the clause to go with the land the city is receiving from ETMC, city manager Gerry Boren explained, pending a favorable opinion on the matter from 392nd District Judge Dan Moore.
ETMC plans to use the land to add a 12,000-foot physicians office building.
Phase II calls for adding to the existing structure to expand the Olympic Center and add beds for a small hospital.
The design concept is still being developed, an ETMC spokesman said.
In addition to the 3.26-acre swap, ETMC owns a five-acre property contiguous to its current property, Boren explained.
Boren added that an extensive storm system is being developed to handle the drainage of the site and $24,000 is being given to the city to expand the city park to receive the runoff.
The council gave Boren the authority to sign all necessary documents pursuant to the agreement.
In other business, council members:
• agreed to extend a grant application into its third and final year, worth $10,000 to the city towards the pay of a litter abatement officer. Currently, the city has two such officers. The salary related to the grant is about $34,000, Boren said.
Councilman Melvyn Hayes opposed the action, saying there comes a point when the city is providing more than the grant will supply.
• set a planning workshop for 10 a.m. Thursday (today) at the La Quinta Inn followed by lunch. The Economic Development Corporation is invited to attend as are the members of Planning and Zoning.
“We want to prioritize the city’s projects and fine-tune the direction of future growth,” Boren said.
• appointed Pete Martinez to the Park and Recreation Board.

Pioneer Day soon
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

EUSTACE–Eustace is the place to be this Saturday for Pioneer Day. Every year, this day-long celebration draws crowds to Eustace for games of skill and chance, along with the opportunity to pick up unique crafts and gift items offered.
A full day of entertainment and activities are planned for the annual event, starting with the fourth annual Pioneer Day 5K Walk/Run at 8 a.m.
Once again, track coach Gene Myers is heading up this event. A $15 entry fee comes with a T-shirt. The top three winners in each age group will be presented with an award following the race. For more information, call Myers at (903) 477-1379.
Spectators thrill to see hometown high school track stars compete against arch rivals from neighboring school districts in this fun competition.
Others are inspired by the field of senior athletes this event continues to attract.
After the race, the bazaar opens for browsing through arts, crafts and food booths.
But you don’t have to wait long before the Pioneer Day Parade trots down Farm-to-Market 316 from the high school to the town square.
All who plan to participate in the parade should be at the school no later than 9:30 a.m., Pioneer Day coordinator Cary Reeve said.
Staged at the town square Park, Pioneer Day also gives visitors a chance to sample a taste of the pioneer spirit with a tour of a log cabin, located across from the square.
All day, a line up of entertainment, demonstrations, domino and horseshoe pitching contests are planned including a little bingo.
Trophies follow the 42 Tournament courtesy of the Jane Beeson Family. For more information, contact Robert Reeve at (903) 275-7722.
Horseshoe pitchers will be competing for cash prizes. Contact Jerry and Joel Boyd at (903) 425-0138.
The ever-popular pet show gets begins at 1 p.m. under the direction of Diane and Rick Shaffer.
If your pet has what it takes to circle the gazebo, be sure to be there with your leash. Questions? Call (903) 477-5460.
The day of festivities closes with a street dance beginning at 8 p.m. with music provided by John Allen and the Whiplash Band.

 

 

 


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