|Trinity Standard - Local News
Copyright 2012 - Polk County Publishing Company
Commissioners eye overtime hours
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – Policy and budget changes are coming to address the overtime or “comp time” being accumulated by deputies with the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office. During Monday’s meeting of the Trinity County Commissioners Court, County Auditor Sheila Johnson reported the accrued hours of comp time now amounts to a $78,000 liability – up from the $71,500 that was reported in May. Under county policy, deputies are allowed to accumulate up to 480 hours of comp time before the county actually begins to pay them for the overtime hours. However, if the deputy should leave the county’s employ, he or she must be paid for all comp hours that have been accumulated. Johnson said as of Monday, two sheriff’s department employees had reached the 480-hour limit. In the past, it was noted problems with comp time being accumulated by sheriff’s deputies can be traced back through the administrations of several sheriffs. Issues such as having to provide service on a 24-hour, seven-day per week schedule with a limited number of officers have been attributed to the need for working beyond the normal shift hours. On Monday, Sheriff Ralph Montemayor told the court that he has been working to gain control of the problem and “things are starting to really come around.” Montemayor said with the exception of emergencies, no deputy is allowed to work any overtime hours without prior approval from the sheriff or a department supervisor. “If a deputy does have to work an hour or two over, they are expected to take time off within a week or two to make up for it,” he told commissioners. Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham asked if it would help if the sheriff were authorized to hire an additional non-law enforcement administrator to help with paperwork. “A secretary or administrator would help…basically, any additional warm bodies would help,” the sheriff said. Montemayor currently has a law enforcement staff consisting of a chief deputy, two investigators, an animal control officer and five patrol deputies. According to the county’s 2012 budget, the $78,000 comp time liability is almost equal to the salaries of three patrol deputies. In her report to commissioners Monday, Johnson said a new line item needs to be added to the county’s budget to cover the comp time liability. She also said she will soon recommend a change in county policy that would lock in any potential overtime pay to the current rate of pay. “If you decide to give a pay increase next year, we don’t want to have to pay the current comp time hours at the new, higher rate,” she said. Other business During the relatively short meeting, commissioners also: • Received an update on a pipeline to be built next year through precincts 1 and 3. The ONEOK Sterling III pipeline will be a 16-inch, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) pipeline that will run from Oklahoma to Chambers County and will cross through Trinity County. Tommy Darnell, a permit agent with ONEOK, said land acquisition is set to be completed by Dec. 31 and construction is planned for the first quarter of 2013. • Approved a resolution formally asking the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to add the Mill Creek Bridge at the entrance to the Port Adventure subdivision to the off-system bridge program. Under the program, TxDOT will build a concrete and steel structure at an estimated cost of $512,900. The old, wooden bridge was torn down last year after its deck began to fail. The county used two old railroad tank cars as large culverts to create a temporary crossing to provide access to the subdivision. TxDOT officials have already indicated the bridge will be included in the off-system program on an emergency basis but needed the formal resolution from the county before they could proceed. • Voted to move forward with a “non-suit” involving a civil lawsuit filed by the Beirman family against the county. The suit challenged the county’s ownership of a Precinct 4 road. Following a rare close-door meeting in which commissioners teleconferenced with their attorney in the case, County Judge Doug Page announced the Beirman family had agreed to dismiss their lawsuit and the county’s action Monday was essentially to agree to the action. • Approved a resolution formally implementing a policy under which the county will pay jail inmate medical claims using current Medicare rates. • Renewed the county’s agreement with San Jacinto County that allows Montemayor to house Trinity County prisoners in the San Jacinto County Jail at a rate of $38 per inmate per day.