By Anton Reicher
The Medina County Commissioners Court spent the week leading to the Fourth of July conducting one regular meeting and two budget workshop sessions with a strong emphasis on law enforcement requirements.
Making presentations to the court were Sheriff Randy Brown, District Attorney Mark Haby, County Court-at-Law Judge Mark Cashion, Precinct 2 Constable Jim Przybylski, Justice of the Peace Glenn Klaus, Juvenile Probation Officer Lynette Drury and pre-trial services administrator Dorothy Hastings.
Commissioners also heard from county clerk Gina Champion, county auditor Eduardo Lopez, elections administrator Lupe Torres and veterans’ services officer Ruben Gonzalez and representatives of the county’s agricultural extension service office.
Sheriff Brown addressed the court on his plans to increase jail revenue during the coming budget year. With the final completion of the jail addition and renovation project in January, the county expects an extra $375,000 in revenue to come from renting jail space to entities such as the U.S. Marshals Service.
The expected revenue is calculated based on $55 a bed daily divided by two.
“When we swing the doors open, we’re hoping to have enough jailers to handle it,” Brown said.
Also discussed during Brown’s presentation was the delay in delivery of nine Chevrolet Tahoes ordered by the county for the sheriff’s office in October 2021. The delays are being blamed on COVID-19 pandemic supply chain issues.
“I’m literally disgusted,” County Auditor Lopez said.
Equipment needed to put eight of the nine vehicles in operating conditions arrived at the “upfitting” facility on June 29, he said.
“They are telling me the ninth one is there but I can’t verify that,” Lopez said.
The county has been notified that two other vehicles ordered, a Ford F250 and a Ford F150, may be so behind schedule that the trucks delivered will be 2023 models, not 2022 models. Unfortunately, these vehicles will be subject to any price increases for the newer models.
“I have no idea what to expect on these vehicles,” Lopez said. “It’s a complete train wreck right now.”
Lopez, in a separate presentation, asked commissioners for $67,500 to cover indirect costs from the move to consolidate the public defenders’ office for five counties to be based in Medina County. He also asked for the hiring of a new full-time employee to be split between his office and human resources to help with new increase in personnel that the completion of the jail project represents.
Constable Przybylski presented his argument for a salary increase from $33,211 to $48,500, plus an increased travel allowance. He reported that since 2013 his office has made 2,937 traffic stops with 2,280 citations and arrest warrants served.
In citations, the office has collected $320,000 since 2015 with nearly $34,000 in civil process fines collected together with the justice of the peace’s office in the same period.
“We’re not just sitting there, running traffic and speed traps,” Przybylski said.
District Attorney Haby told commissioners his budget included slight increases in various categories but “nothing shocking.” Those increases included raises in salaries for prosecutors.
“Hiring and retaining skilled prosecutors in rural areas is a challenge,” Haby said, particularly when in close proximity to a large metropolitan county such as Bexar.
A first assistant district attorney in Medina County makes just over $90,000 annually, Haby said. In Bexar County, the same position pays nearly $177,000.
Juvenile probation officer Drury asked for an increase of $153,000 in her budget, calling the need “critical.”
“The majority of it is going to placements and detention,” Drury said. “Those are going up significantly across the state.”
Justice of the Peace Klaus asked to upgrade a part-time employee to help deal with the escalating number of drug cases filed in his jurisdiction.
Aside from law enforcement issues, veterans’ services officer Gonzalez took the opportunity to recognize a recent success for his office, correcting a Veteran’s Administration error that allowed one client to recover $408,000 in unpaid health care benefits.
During the regular court meeting on June 30, the commissioners heard a presentation from Mark Miller of Westwood County Engineering on the development of a master drainage plan for Medina County.
Priorities for the plan are to identify risk, develop project concepts, develop funding goals and partnerships, develop mechanisms to increase drainage infrastructure funding and coordinate the project with state and federal agencies such as the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
In subdivision development news, the commissioners approved plans to vacate and replat Lot 20 in Holiday Villages located in Precinct 1 on County Road 151. No comments were heard during a public hearing on the request.
The commissioners gave final approval on Desert Willow Acres and Hunters Ranch Unit 14A, both in Precinct 3. The court also approved the construction plan for Amanda Park in Precinct 2, permitting building to begin.
By Anton Reicher