The Blanco County Commissioners Court held a Special meeting on January 22, 2013. All four commissioners were in attendance, and the minutes of the January 8, 2013 Regular meeting were heard and approved by the Court.
County Judge Bill Guthrie asked the commissioners to consider reappointment of County Commissioner Paul Granberg to the Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) board for a two-year term. According to Judge Guthrie, “Commissioner Granberg has served on the board for many years, and we should certainly reappoint him if he is willing to serve again.” County Commissioner James Sultemeier provided a motion for reappointment for Commissioner Granberg to the board, and County Commissioner John Wood seconded the motion.
The Court was asked to consider a hiring freeze for all Blanco County departments. Judge Guthrie opened the discussion by saying “we have to get a handle on budgets. One way is to inform the Court of vacancies to be filled. The Court can look at funds to cover employees and address the vacancies.”
Sheriff Morgan addressed the Court next. He said he was concerned of forthcoming “severe consequences for citizens. The job of dispatcher is highly stressful, and vacant positions would be even more stressful…we need more money in the budget and a greater increase in manpower …we have a responsibility to our citizens. We can’t just hang it up and close down the shop, this takes money, and we have a responsibility to the citizens of Blanco County.” The Sheriff ended his part of the discussion by asking that he be allowed to “hire the two vacant positions.”
Dispatcher Delgado addressed the Court next. According to Mr. Delgado, “Sheriff Morgan is doing all he can with the budget. I often work a 6 to 6 shift without help, and I would like to go home when it’s time. We have to watch people, not just pennies.” Like Sheriff Morgan, Mr. Delgado reiterated that a dispatcher’s job is very stressful, the turnover rate is high, and the rate of pay in Blanco County is not very high.
There was some discussion of the necessity for 24 hour coverage in Blanco County, and Ms. Elaine Cross said her research indicated this had first been voted on and approved by commissioners back in 1989. The consensus seemed to be that 24 hour coverage in Blanco County is a budgetary matter. Commissioner Chris Liesmann asked Mr. Delgado “how many deputies do you need for 24 hour coverage? Mr. Delgado answered “four deputies on nights, two on, and asking for help (back-up).”
Mr. Delgado asked the Court what the estimated size of Blanco County was, and he was told it is over 1,000 square miles. Mr. Delgado responded with “I am concerned for my safety…is it reasonable for one man to cover 1,000+ acres alone, and that does not touch other issues like over time.” Judge Guthrie asked Mr. Delgado if he was working alone because of the unfilled slot and Mr. Delgado answered that “if the slot was filled I would not be alone.” Judge Guthrie told Mr. Delgado to “let us know of your vacancies and plans to fill.”
One of the new dispatchers, Mr. Renaud, addressed the Court next. According to Mr. Renaud, he loves his job as dispatcher, but there is a lot of stress to deal with. In the short time Mr. Renaud has been employed, “calls have doubled, and some of these are medical calls, disturbances. This is like a big city in a small town.”
Jennifer Shoemaker informed the Court there is much on the job training, and it is fast paced. According to Ms. Shoemaker, “fortunately for all, there is a lot of cross training involved. When a dispatcher is sick we have to pull from elsewhere and this results in over time when it’s at the end of the week.” Ms. Shoemaker went on to say “it’s crazy in here on dispatchers, they are your first responders…it is a stressful load. Additional rules and money shortages create even more stress.” Commissioner Sultemeier asked if the dispatchers were able to take holidays and Mr. Delgado said, “No, there’s not enough for that.”
Administrative Assistant Jenifer Holland distributed documentation to the Court containing dispatchers’ hours for over time, training, and holidays. Ms. Holland told the Court “that the job of dispatchers requires continuous training, and this training is costly.” She also said “the three month period of October – November – December reflected higher than usual amounts of overtime. The reason for this was because of preparing for the jail inspection and included seven holidays. However, we now have a better understanding of how to keep it under control and we’ve gotten past this peak time.”
Ms. Holland went on to say “we want to keep our crew, don’t want to put officers at risk.” She also emphasized the stress of the dispatchers’ job, saying “there is a lot involved…we deal with alcoholics, suicide, inmates who are throwing up, and it’s continual. All our dispatchers have their hearts in this, they have dedication. We must get a bigger picture of what’s going on. Yes, the budget is important but keeping dispatchers safe and the safety of the citizens is also important.”
Commissioner Wood asked Ms. Holland if the constables could assist the dispatchers with some of the work. Ms. Holland answered that she would have to look into it, and Mr. Delgado spoke up and said that “in my three and a half years here the constables did help from time to time on major calls, but they have their own work to do.”
As the discussion was ending Judge Guthrie asked if there were additional questions or a motion to consider a hiring freeze for all Blanco County departments, but there was no motion at the present time.
Ben Oakley, Director of the North Blanco County EMS presented the Court with a quote of $232.32 for repairs to the defective Automated External Defibrillator (AED) unit. The repaired unit would be placed in the Blanco County Courthouse. Mr. Oakley also secured a quote of $1607 for the purchase of a new AED unit. Mr. Oakley told the Court that “the new unit would be comparable to the other unit, and would include the all-important real time feedback.” Mr. Oakley indicated that the quote reflected state contract pricing with additional discounts… “really good pricing.”
Mr. Oakley was asked where the best location for the new unit would be and he answered that it should be located in a prominent location in the Annex. Mr. Oakley mentioned the pads would need to be replaced at two year intervals and the batteries have a five year shelf life. Blanco County resident Ms. Elaine Cross and Ms. Nancy Hall addressed the Court and said they “would work to gather donations from county residents to cover the cost of the new unit.”
Judge Guthrie introduced Ms. Jenkins to the Court. Ms. Jenkins is the new president of the Blanco County Historical Commission. The list of appointments to the Historical Commission includes honorary and ex-officio members. Judge Guthrie asked if the list of members was complete, and if he and the other members of the Court could become voting members. According to the Judge, “I make every meeting, but I cannot vote.”
A short discussion followed, with Ms. Jenkins saying she was bound to uphold the written document that was drawn in 1977. Ms. Jenkins offered to bring a motion to the Blanco County Historical Commission to amend and vote on membership. At the conclusion of the discussion Commission Sultemeier made a motion to consider the appointments (with the addition of two names) to the Blanco County Historical Commission as directed by Chapter 318 of the Texas Government Code. Commissioner Granberg seconded the motion, and the motion carried.
Judge Guthrie took great pleasure in introducing Nell Krueger to the Commissioners Court, saying “she has served as chairperson for a number of years.” Judge Guthrie went on to tell a little story of how Nell had stepped in for Uncle Myers, affectionately known as “Uncle Roy.” Later Nell served for George Byars when George became ill and passed away.
The proclamation that was presented to Nell Kreuger for her service as past chairperson of the Blanco County Historical Commission by Judge Guthrie said that “she has served us faithfully and selflessly, was instrumental in planning the 150th Anniversary Celebration, and for her work with the Blanco Pioneer Museum. Nell Krueger also “reached out to citizens for history and heritage, and we are extraordinarily grateful to Nell for the work she has done.”
The last item of business was to approve outstanding bills in the amount of $310,191.97. Commissioner Granberg made a motion for approval of the bills, Commissioner Wood seconded the motion, and the motion carried. At that time the Special meeting adjourned.