By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – The Houston County Commissioners Court met in a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday morning, Jan. 25 in a session highlighted by a discussion on compensatory time for county employees.
After taking care of several routine matters on the court’s agenda, County Judge Jim Lovell brought forward an item “… to pay down compensatory time to 40 hours and pay down to 40 each quarter thereafter in March, June and September.”
“This is something we considered in our special meeting (Jan. 14) and I think the sheriff went back and talked to his folks,” the judge said.
For reference, in a Jan. 7 letter to Judge Lovell and the Houston County Commissioners Court, Sheriff Randy Hargrove addressed the compensatory time matter and how COVID-19 played a major part in the matter.
“Since that time (Dec. 31),” the sheriff wrote, “we have had 11 inmates and four jailers test positive for COVID. We have taken all necessary steps to stop the spread of this variant. The jailers have quarantined at home and the inmates have been quarantined in the appropriate cells until they have a negative test. We are three full-time and one part-time jailer short (positions not filled), plus the four jailers who have COVID. This makes us short seven full-time and a part-time jailer. Because of this shortage our jailers are working 18-hour days, plus some of their days off, so that we remain in compliance with jail standards. Of the three jailers that we are short, two of those positions have ben unfilled for some time now. This has also been a problem in the recent past when someone calls in sick another jailer has to work overtime or one has to be called in causing them to accrue comp-time. I recently received notice that two of our jailers will be resigning in February to attend the police academy. This news and the lack of potential applicants, is quickly becoming problematic with our jailer to inmate ratio. Our jailers are worn out and at this time the comp-time they are earning just isn’t appealing. With conditions as such, they can’t take time off without causing a co-worker to accrue comp-time. I am requesting that they be paid overtime each pay period it is earned. I believe this would help morale and cause them to be more willing to help take up the slack, so to speak, until we can find a solution to this problem.”
Given that backdrop, an agenda item on the Jan. 11 Commissioners Court agenda pertained to a request from Sheriff Hargrove to pay out current accumulated comp time over 40 hours.
During a Jan. 11 meeting, the sheriff elaborated somewhat on his letter, explaining without the jail remaining in compliance, there was a possibility of losing contracts with other counties for the housing of inmates.
“I’m afraid it is going to get to the point – if we continue to lose people – we will have to cancel our contracts with Trinity and Leon Counties. That would be about $41,000,” he said.
After revisiting the matter, the commissioners unanimously agreed to approve the agenda item to pay down the comp. time.
In other matters brought before the court:
- The commissioners approved the minutes from previous meetings.
- Budget amendments were approved by the court.
- The payment of bills and expenses incurred by the county were approved.
- The Houston County Treasurer’s and Compensatory Reports were received as information by the commissioners.
- Salaries for new and/or transfer employees were approved.
- The transfer of deeds between the city of Crockett and Houston County were approved.
- The Fiscal Year 2021 County Lateral Road and Expenditure annual report was received as information by the court.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.