Troopers may move to former jail facility
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
Possible future uses for the former Houston County Jail building were discussed by the Houston County Commissioners Court when it met Friday, Oct. 11. Previously, during the commissioners' Sept. 24 meeting, Houston County Judge Erin Ford introduced the idea of allowing DPS troopers to use office space at the former jail facility, located at 112 East Houston Ave. Ford, at that time, explained that the DPS troopers based in Crockett are housed in very small quarters in the building on East Loop 304. The DPS driver's license office also is in that building, and the Texas Department of Transportation has offices there. Ford also suggested on Sept. 24 that some of the office space at the former jail building be made available to the Office of Emergency Management. He said OEM Coordinator/County Fire Marshal Lamb has asked for some of the office space at the former jail facility. Lamb's office currently is in the old armory building adjacent to Davy Crockett Memorial Park. A third use Ford suggested on Sept. 24 for the building is to create a fireproof storage area for archived county records. Ford expressed concern about the building deteriorating the longer it is unoccupied. During that discussion, Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen said that in light of costly (to the county) unfunded mandates still being legislated by the state, he was not inclined to help out the state with office space. Also during the Sept. 24 discussion, County Auditor Melissa Mosley noted during that the county provides the DPS troopers with a secretary. The county has a precedent of allowing the state to use county-owned property. Mosley reminded the commissioners that the county leases a building for use by the Texas Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) office. During the Friday, Oct. 11 meeting, Kitchen said he would like to see the county consider the options in phases. He said he has no problem with moving forward at this time with allowing the DPS troopers to use office space at the former jail building, but he wants the commissioners court to further examine what costs would be involved before acting on the proposal to move Lamb's office there or to make a fireproof storage area. The commissioners then unanimously approved allowing the DPS troopers to use office space at the former jail site, pending receipt and approval by the commissioners of a contractual agreement between the county and the state. County Attorney Daphne Session reported she has drafted a contract and the state currently is reviewing it. DPS Sgt. Sammy Lattner and Trooper Michael Hutcherson were present at Friday's meeting. Lattner said, "I appreciate ya'll giving us the opportunity to do this. It will be very beneficial for us. Most of you have seen the office we're in now. It's small and we're trying to grow. I feel in the future that there will be more troopers in Houston County as the population grows . . . . "We're going to do whatever we can do to put as (little) burden on you as we can. We're going to pay our utilities. We're going to pay to maintain it and keep it clean. . . I think it's going to greatly improve the morale of the troopers and our workers here to have more space to move around. . . .Thank you for everything you've done." In other business Friday, the commissioners took the following actions: • Unanimously voted not to initiate a countywide burn ban. • Voted 3-2 (Kitchen and Pct. 1 Commissioner Roger Dickey opposed) to allocate 1,000 votes for Kathi Calvert and 250 votes for Jerry Pipes in the Houston County Appraisal District Board of Directors election. Ford made the motion and Pct. 4 Commissioner Kennon Kellum seconded the motion. Kitchen explained his opposing vote is not a personal objection but concern for collateral damage he feels will occur by stacking the deck in favor of one candidate. Kitchen expressed concern that Lovelady ISD will lose power if John LaRue is not on the HCAD board. Houston County historically has allocated its votes evenly between candidates in the election. Ford acknowledged he understands it is a sensitive issue. • Unanimously voted to approve a limited joint election agreement between Latexo ISD and Houston County. This agreement pertains to the special bond election scheduled by LISD for Nov. 5, the same day the county will hold the state election (Proposed amendments to State Constitution). Joint election polling places will be: Latexo ISD polling places which consist of portions of Houston County Precincts 1, 2, 5, 14 and 16 and within Latexo ISD: Pct. 1: Crockett Fire Station, 200 North Sixth St. in Crockett; Pct. 2: Former Justice of the Peace Office, 110 East Houston Ave. in Crockett; Pct. 5: First United Methodist Church, 3913 US 287 North in Grapeland; Pct. 14: Wilcox Community Center in Latexo; Pct. 16: San Pedro Baptist Church, 10733 FM 2022 North in Grapeland. Early voting will be held jointly at the Latexo ISD Administrative Office and the Houston County Courthouse. • Unanimously voted to approve the updated Title IV-E County Legal Services Contract and proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014 beween the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and Houston County and authorized Ford to execute the contract on behalf of Houston County. Session explained this contract provides for reimbursement to the county for services provided by her office. • Unanimously approved the purchase for a van for the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The van will be purchased from Cutshaw Chevrolet for $21,500, the low bid received by the county. The current OEM van is reported to be 28 years old. Lamb told the commissioners, "I made it last as long as I could." • Unanimously voted to accept a donation of $2,500 from Frontier Camp, Inc. and $2,000 from Houston County Lake VFD for improvement to CR 2195 in Road and Bridge Pct. 2. • Unanimously voted to approve a general insurance coverage contract with Travellers Companies through Crockett Insurance Services. • Unanimously voted to proclaim Oct. 7-12 as National 4-H Week in Houston County. • Unanimously voted to accept a $1,000 grant from the Enbridge Energy Company, Inc. Safe Community Program for the purchase of an in-car video system for the Houston County Sheriff's Office. • Unanimously voted to approve salaries for the following new and/or transfer employees: - Hiring William Ruland as part-time deputy at a pay rate of $9.04 per hour; - Moving Randon Rains from part-time jailer to full-time jailer at a pay rate of $848.36 bi-weekly; - Hiring Aleah Price as dispatcher at a pay rate of $848.36 bi-weekly. She will replace Marci Galloway; - Hiring Betty Atkinson as part-time kitchen assistant at the Houston County Senior Citizens Center at a pay rate of $8 per hour; -Hiring Sharita Porter as temporary employee in the County Tax Assessor-Collector's office at a pay rate of $7.25. Porter is helping to process the 2013 tax statements. • Unanimously voted to incorporate IRS per diem rates for travel in an amended policy to be voted on at a later date. Prior to the vote, discussion between commissioners and some of the county department heads reflected confusion about existing policy, particularly with regard to when meals will be reimbursed or not reimbursed. Some conference registration fees include some meals. They agreed the county's travel reimbursement policy needs to be clarified and simplified. • Tabled discussion and vote appointing a board member for Workforce Solutions until the next meeting.