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Commissioners reject pay raise for Constables
Groveton News - September 2009
GROVETON – Although agreeing to give the county’s four elected constables an $800 per year uniform allowance, Trinity County commissioners rejected a request to more than double their pay.
During Monday’s meeting of the commissioners, three of the four precinct constables were present during the discussion leading up to the adoption of an order setting the annual salaries for all county elected officials.
Pct. 2 Constable Robert Johnson made the request for the pay hike on behalf of the other constables, asking commissioners to raise the annual salary from $5,400 to $12,400.
In his presentation, Johnson noted that he was asking the commissioners to pay constables on the same level as a Trinity County sheriff’s deputy, who earn approximately $12 per hour.
“In Precinct 2 I put in about 20 hours a week and at $5,400 per year that works out to about $5.63 an hour – or less than half the rate of a sheriff’s deputy,” he said.
Johnson noted that Trinity County constables are considered party time officers and that designation now makes it impossible to receive other “off-duty” income they have been able to earn in the past.
A recent change in state law now prohibits “part-time” officers from working off-duty, private security jobs.
Johnson said in the past, the constables could earn additional pay working those jobs but now they cannot unless they can obtain full-time status.
In addition, the part-time status also means constables cannot obtain supplemental state funds to obtain the state-mandated peace officer training.
Pct. 1 Commissioners Grover “Tiger” Worsham told the constables that he agrees their pay is currently too low and said he hopes to increase it in the future.
“I also realize that the county’s financial situation is more unique this year than last year,” he said, adding that to increase the salaries, the county would have to increase the tax rate.
Although the county only pays the constables a $5,400 per year salary, it was noted that that figure is up considerably from the $12 per year paid only a few years ago.
In addition, commissioners noted that the county is now providing all four constables with a county patrol vehicle as well as paying about $6,600 per year for each constable’s health insurance.
The $800 per year uniform allowance being given to the constables also is a new benefit, commissioners noted.
Following the discussion, commissioners approved the order setting the salaries, expenses and allowances for the 2010 budget year, which goes into effect on Oct. 1. The order approved included only a $5,400 annual salary for the four constables.
The county salaries paid to other elected officials included $34,567 for the county judge, $33,475 for the county attorney, $21,302 for the four justices of the peace and $31,466 for all other elected officials. Other elected officials such as the district attorney and district judges are paid by the state.
Constables, sheriff fees
In other discussions with the constables present during Monday’s meeting, commis-sioners reviews the fees charged by the county to have constables or the sheriff serve civil papers.
Currently those fees range from $10 for fingerprinting and performing background searches up to $100 for various writs and orders of sale.
Pct. 1 Constable Woody Wallace noted that other counties are charging more and suggested commissioners consider adjusting the local fees.
Commissioners asked County Attorney Joe W. Bell to meet with the constables and the sheriff and to make a recommendation regarding any change in the fee structure.
While they passed on acting on the matter during the meeting, they agreed to address the fees at a special meeting later this month.
It was noted the county must submit its list of fees to the Texas Comptroller’s office by Oct. 1.
Polling places consolidated
During the meeting, commis-sioners approved a request from County Clerk Diane McCrory that the polling places be consolidated for the Nov. 3 constitutional amendment election.
Because a low voter turnout is expected, McCrory recom-mended that the county’s standard consolidation plan be adopted, which would save about half the election-day costs normally incurred by the county.
The plan approved by commissioners is listed below, listing the voting box and where residents of that box will vote on Nov. 3. It also is broken down by commissioner precincts.
Box 1 – Groveton High School.
Box 2 & 3 – 356 Volunteer Fire Department, Carlisle.
Box 14 – Trinity Pines Baptist Church.
Box 11 – Risin Sun Cowboy Church, Trinity.
Box 17 – Trinity Community Center.
Box 4, 5 & 19 – Trinity City Hall.
Box 6 & 12 – Groveton Community Center.
Box 8, 9 & 18 – Apple Springs Volunteer Fire Department.
Box 7, 15, 16 – Baldwin Chapel Church, Groveton.
Box 10 & 20 – Centerville School.
Commissioners also approved McCrory’s request concerning the location and hours of operation for the early voting polls for the Nov. 3 election.
Because of the ongoing renovation of the Trinity County Courthouse, the Groveton early voting location will again be moved to the Groveton Volunteer Fire Department’s meeting room and will be open weekdays from Oct. 19-30.
The Trinity location will remain at the Trinity City Hall council room, also weekdays from Oct. 19-30.
The third early voting place will again be at the Apple Springs Volunteer Fire Department’s meeting room but that location will only be open five days, from Oct. 19-23.
County joins wildfire plan
During their meeting, com-missioners also agreed to take part in the Texas Forest Service’s (TFS) Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).
Meeting with TFS District Forester Todd Nightingale, commissioners approved a resolution joining the plan, which currently has already been adopted by the com-missioners in Walker, Bastrop, Houston, San Augustine, Tyler and Angelina counties.
Nightingale said under the program, TFS will work with the county and the local volunteer fire departments to assess their needs in combating wildfires.
Areas to be examined included the accessibility of fire equipment to various areas, wildland fuels, population density, topography, water sources, hazardous materials and fire causes.
“The CWPP will be com-munity based and will reflect your local needs,” Nightingale said.
“We definitely need to have this in place,” County Judge Mark Evans said. “My office will do what ever it can to assist you with this.”
In other action during the meeting, commissioners:
• Approved the list of holidays that the county will take during the 2010 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
They include: Nov. 11 for Veterans’ Day; Nov. 26-27 for Thanksgiving; Dec. 24-25 for Christmas; Jan. 1, 2010 for New Year’s Day; Jan. 18, 2010 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Feb. 15, 2010 for Presidents’ Day; March 2, 2010 for Texas Independence Day; April 2, 2010 for Good Friday; May 31, 2010 for Memorial Day; July 5, 2010 for Independence Day; Sept. 6, 2010 for Labor Day; and each county employee will be given a holiday for his or her birthday.
• Approved changes to the county’s Personnel Policy Manual that will allow the county to pay health insurance premiums for retired county employees on a “sliding scale” based on their years of service to the county. Under the play proposed by Evans, retirees with 8-11 years of service will be required to pay 75 percent of the insurance costs; those with 12-15 years of service will pay 50 percent of the cost; those with 16-19 years will pay only 25 percent of the cost; and the county will pay 100 percent of the cost for those with 20 years or more service. The payments by the county will continue only until the retiree of their spouse becomes eligible for Medicare.
• Voted to renew the county’s automobile liability, general liability, law enforcement liability and automobile physical damage insurance polices with the Texas Association of County Risk Management Pool.
• Approved a contract with Commercial Electronics Corporation to provide maintenance on the equipment used by the sheriff’s department to record radio and telephone communications.
• Authorized Pct. 4 Com-missioner Jimmy Brown to return two cattle guards removed from the King Loop Road to Paul Wright.
• Established a local data advisory board mandated by state law to insure that criminal case dispositions are properly reported to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Members of the board will include the sheriff, district attorney, county attorney, district clerk, county clerk and the police chiefs of Trinity and Groveton.
• Selected the salary grievance committee for the coming year. The county judge serves as the non-voting presiding officer of the committee and nine county residents chosen from the list of grand jury members were named to the panel. They include Thomas R. Hunt of Trinity, Cledie Hill of Groveton, Robert Earl Smith of Groveton, Denise Murry of Groveton, Richard Chamberlain of Trinity, Richard C. Jones of Trinity, Lewis Evans of Groveton, Johnny Kembro and Jerry L. Price of Trinity. Alternates will include Johnita Spencer of Apple Springs, Arlie Jennings of Groveton Kelli Fails of Groveton and Roy Cannon of Groveton.