By Kathi Bliss
In what has become a somewhat rare occurrence, the Caldwell County Commissioners Court met on Monday in a brief, relatively unfettered meeting which was tied up in less than an hour. Of late, Commissioners’ meetings have developed a reputation for being lengthy, and occasionally a bit contentious.
The most notable point of business during Monday’s meeting came in the form of public comments, when Fox Lane residents Johnny and Sue Haley Smith offered the Court a passionate plea for help.
The Smiths, who run a small hay operation in rural Caldwell County, were recently robbed, losing upwards of $40,000 worth of equipment from their property. The perpetrators, the Smiths suggested, were likely professional, and had cut their fence, removed a fence post and avoided surveillance and security equipment to empty their barn of heavy equipment and more.
It was the second time in a handful of months the Smiths’ property has been stolen; the first time, detectives from the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department arrested and charged the burglars, each of whom have been sentenced to probation, and are expected to pay restitution.
While the Smiths offered praise for the Sheriff’s Department, they had harsh criticisms for the Community Supervisions and Corrections Division (probation), and in particular the probation officer assigned to supervise the offenders involved in the first burglary of the Smith property.
That officer, they accused, has not been keeping a “close enough eye” on the offenders, they said, an accusation based in part on the fact that two of the three have not paid any restitution, and the third has not completed his restitution payments.
“It’s not about the money,” they said. “It’s about the fact that they should be held accountable.”
In addition to expressing their concerns about the probation department, the Smiths said they were concerned that crime was on the rise in their area, and asked the Court to consider working with the Sheriff’s Department to step up patrols and officer presence in the area.
In other business, the Court voted 4-1 to amend the budget for the Caldwell County Maintenance Department to add $15,840 to make James Turner an Assistant Supervisor in that department.
Turner, who was originally hired as an independent contractor and intended to be dedicated to Courthouse renovations and maintenance, has been helping with other projects within the Maintenance Department since one employee has been out injured, according to County Administrator Ron Heggemeier.
As an independent contractor and “Mr. Courthouse,” Turner had previously been paid from a certificate of obligation intended for use in building repair and maintenance. However, as a full-time employee, he is no longer eligible for those funds, and in addition is eligible for insurance and other benefits.
When the Commissioners originally agreed on the contract for Turner to act as “Mr. Courthouse” at the request of Commissioner Fred Buchholtz, it was understood at that time that the position would remain independent contract, and would not become a part of the County’s regular payroll.
Commissioner Joe Roland voted against the measure, saying it “just doesn’t sit right with me.”
In brief news:
The Court appointed new members to the Caldwell County Child Welfare Board.
They approved the purchase of identification numbers for the new water rescue boat in Luling.
The panel agreed to a resolution authorizing the filing of a grant application with the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) for a Regional Solid Waste Grant Program.
They approved the purchase of software for the Records Division of the County Clerk’s Office at a cost not to exceed $80,000. In addition to other functions the software is expected to provide, County Clerk Carol Holcomb said she expects the new software will enable customers to access some Clerk’s records via the Internet.
The County paid bills in the amount of $199,842.55.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference Room at the LW Scott Annex. The meetings are open to the public and interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend.