Waller County Commissioners appoint interim sheriff, institute burn ban, approve COVID-19 testing

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 8/12/20

The Waller County Commissioners Court appointed Joe Hester as interim sheriff for the county during the court’s regular meeting this morning. Hester has been late Sheriff R. Glenn Smith’s …

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Waller County Commissioners appoint interim sheriff, institute burn ban, approve COVID-19 testing

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The Waller County Commissioners Court appointed Joe Hester as interim sheriff for the county during the court’s regular meeting this morning. Hester has been late Sheriff R. Glenn Smith’s second in command for quite some time. Commissioners also reinstated a burn ban countywide.

“I will just say this, Joe Hester has a very long career in law enforcement, I think 46 years. … I think Joe is an excellent choice to serve out the remainder of Sheriff Smith’s term – obviously Sheriff Smith had confidence in (Hester, who) was his deputy chief,” County Judge Trey Duhon said.

Hester will serve as Waller County sheriff through the end of the year – the remainder of Smith’s elected term. An election between Republican candidate Troy Guidry and Democratic candidate Cedric Watson this Nov. 3 will determine who is sworn in to take over permanently in January, Duhon said.

Hester began his career in law enforcement in 1973 with the Terry County Sheriffs Office and has worked at a variety of agencies since then, including as police chief for the cities of Denver City, Navasota and Hempstead, according to the WCSO website. He has served as WCSO’s patrol captain from 2007 to 2013 when he was promoted to chief deputy, overseeing the criminal investigation and patrol groups for WCSO.

Hester holds a bachelor’s degree from Wayland Baptist College. He also holds a master peace officer certification and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

The court also reinstated a burn ban at the recommendation of Fire Marshal Brian Cantrell.

At the end of July, the court has instituted a burn ban because the Keetch-Byram Drough Index – or KBDI – had reached a countywide average of 517. Last week’s meeting saw the court lifting the ban because the KBDI had dropped to 427 with a general guideline for a ban being a KBDI score of 500, Duhon said at the time. This week, the court reinstated the ban after Cantrell informed the court the KBDI had again exceeded 500 and was expected to remain high considering the hot weather expected for the week.

The court also discussed allotting some of the County’s CARES Act funding to the school districts operating in the county. No action was taken, but commissioners did ask county staff to obtain data from school districts including Royal and Katy ISDs to determine the need for devices and connectivity tools for students to be able to connect. Discussion among the commissioners indicated the county would provide the money to the districts for computing devices and hotspots that would allow students, especially low-income students, to complete their online classwork.

Waller County Construction Manager Danny Rothe updated the court on the county’s new justice complex and said the Sheriff’s Office and courtroom would be able to open this month, but the jail would need to wait for state approval in September. The court authorized payment of about $505,000 to Sedalco, Inc. for the construction project which is near completion.

Other items:

  • A tax rebate payment to Amazon for its facility between Brookshire and Katy was authorized for about $513,000. Court members said the payment was part of the development agreement and that overall the county has increased revenues, even with the rebate, which has led to additional staffing for the county without a need to raise taxes.
  • An agreement supporting Meals on Wheels was approved.
  • The court discussed a new clinic that will be opened by Access Health in Brookshire in the next few weeks. Duhon said the county may consider any physician hired at the new clinic to serve as its health authority rather than depending on the Department of Stathe Health Services for that purpose.
  • The court authorized county staff to advertise the hearings for the county’s property tax rate in the “Katy Times” and other publications throughout the county. Publication of proposed tax rates in newspapers and subsequent public hearings are standard protocol for setting tax rates in Texas.

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