Newly-sworn-in Waller County Sheriff Troy Guidry requested an additional two deputies allotted for court security when the new Waller County Justice Center comes online fully once COVID-19 allows the …
Newly-sworn-in Waller County Sheriff Troy Guidry requested an additional two deputies allotted for court security when the new Waller County Justice Center comes online fully once COVID-19 allows the courts to open for full, in-person operations. Commissioners also discussed revisions to flood damage prevention policies for the county.
Guidry said he and his team had worked with former Interim Sheriff Joe Hester who took over the department after the passing of the late Sheriff Glenn Smith late last summer. After the restructuring, Guidry said he needed to add four court security positions to ensure that the new Waller County Justice Center is fully staffed and secured for the courts that will be housed in the new facility as well as ensuring that four staff were available for the county courthouse.
“The fact is we’re going to need four full-time deputies – armed people – at that new building and it’s mainly for the judges’ security,” Guidry said. “We sat down with (the judges) and they’d like at least two people in their courtroom(s), armed during their court sessions.”
Guidry said the cost to hire a deputy is about $50,000 a year plus benefits which county staff estimate at about $12,000 a year. So, with the two existing staff and two new staff being requested, that would come out to a total of about $288,000. However, Guidry said, the department would work to identify ways to curb expenses in other areas by eliminating expenses. One way to do that, he said, would be to utilize inmate labor to keep the grounds in order by having them perform tasks such as mowing, weed eating and picking up trash that accumulates at the new facility.
“Now what we don’t want to do – we already have a low number on the patrol side,” Guidry said. “We don’t want to take away from the citizens who haven’t violated somebody’s rights to come out here and stop patrolling to come to work the courthouse.”
Guidry said shifting staff off patrol is what has happened in the past, but with the new facility, he wants to avoid doing that and to properly staff the facility with the appropriate sorts of deputies and bailiffs. He added that it takes about three months after a deputy is hired to fully orient them into the county through supplemental training that is county specific.
Commissioners tabled the item for now while Guidry works with county accounting staff to see where budget savings can be recognized to pay for the new positions. Guidry has previously said he would be looking for volunteer deputies to help supplement existing staff which is one avenue that may help in finding funding for this supplemental staffing. He added during the meeting that reducing overtime would assist with the issue and that a possible agreement with Austin County could bring in unexpected revenue and selling unneeded, outdated equipment as well as improved programs for vehicle maintenance which will save the county money among other money-saving avenues.
Court is tentatively expected to reopen in June or July of this year and Guidry said he would like to have the officers fully trained prior to that happening.
“I really didn’t want to come to (commissioners court) and ask for this (staff increase), but I don’t think that we can – outside of pulling from patrol – at this stage, there’s really no other option to do it,” Guidry said.
The issue was ultimately tabled while funding adjustments are investigated.
Hester, now an administrative lieutenant with WCSO, followed Guidry on the agenda to set up an agreement with Texana, a nonprofit out of the Rosenberg area, to provide mental health services for the jail. The organization has been providing mental health services as required by state law, but costs have become untenable, Hester said.
The new agreement will be more expensive than the flat fee the nonprofit had been providing to WCSO.
Hester said WCSO had looked at what other counties were paying through telehealth options but saw that sort of service costing more than the agreement with Texana.
A mental health agreement for about $35,000 for non-inmate-related health care evaluations with Texana was approved along with the agreement to provide inmate mental health services. The contracts were agreed; however, each has a clause that allows for a 30-day option to cancel if better options become available.
County Auditor Alan Younts said it was possible that a small line item can be approved and then the county could look at possible grants to fund the services as well.