County Commissioners Vote to Maintain Guard on Prisoner in Tyler

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY –  The Houston County Commissioners Court met Tuesday, April 25 for with a busy agenda, including new hires and salary adjustments for several employees and to debate a request to hire an outside company to guard a prisoner recently shot by deputies while fleeing arrest. 

Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove was in attendance to explain to the commissioners the need to maintain a “24/7” watch on the suspect who is undergoing medical treatment at a hospital in Tyler. As reported in The Messenger, sheriff’s deputies attempting to execute at arrest warrant were fired on by a suspect who was hit by law enforcement several times. No officers were injured. As of press time, the suspect’s name and charges have not been released, but while he remains under doctors’ care in Tyler, the suspect must be guarded in case he tries to flee. Hargrove told the court his staff have been maintaining this watch but requested the services of Badgehire Security Services to take over those duties, freeing his deputies to resume their normal duties. The court debated this issue, wondering about the high cost of maintaining the vigil versus paying overtime to our current law enforcement to keep up the watch. 

Hargrove told the court the suspect may be kept in the hospital for up to four more weeks – causing the commissioners to worry about the cost of maintaining watch (somewhere north of $20,000) and the cost from the hospital for his care once the suspect is released. Noting some local law enforcement would work for the outsourced company, the commissioners asked if the sheriff could somehow make it work, to which Hargrove agreed to try, while noting this was taking valuable resources out of the county which were sorely needed. 

The court approved the motion, with Judge Lovell telling the sheriff the approval meant he could use the services as needed, while hopefully being able to use some of his own personnel to lower the overall cost. Hargrove lamented the cost but said this is something which comes up only “about every 10 years” but that is the responsibility of the county to provide and take care of as long as the suspect is in the hospital’s care. 

In other business, County Court Judge Sarah Clark told the commissioners she would lose her long time court reporter but had been lucky to find a replacement. She told the court there is an acute shortage of court reporters in the state and around the country. She noted this would be a good option for someone looking for a stable and well-paid career, pointing out you do not need a college degree, requiring only a two-year course and to pass a final exam. 

County Clerk Terri Meadows received approval for an agreement with Family Search International who offered to provide free digitizing services of many of the county’s birth, death and marriage records to provide to their customers looking to do genealogical research. The company offered digital copies of these records at no cost and Meadows told the court other county clerks had reporter to her they were very pleased with this win-win arrangement. 

Spectrum brand pole-mounted power supply towers have been installed on County Roads 2140 and 2055 as part of the installation of fiber-based broadband internet coverage. Precinct Two Commissioner Willie Kitchen reported this was done using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds designed to help rural counties to bring internet to under-served areas. Kitchen said it was good these services were coming to rural areas and hoped this, “…was only the beginning.”

Percilla Community Church was incorporated into Precinct Eight’s voting precinct line in order to be able to designate the church as a backup voting location for the precinct. Elections administrator Cynthia Lum told the court there are no changes to voters or voting precincts, this will just give the county an additional option, if needed, for future elections. 

In other business the court:

  • Approved switching internet vendors from Windstream to Vyve at the Houston County Armory
  • Agreed to advertise to accept bids for the county’s employee and retirement insurance 
  • Voted to approve bids from Lucas Roofing to repair leaks in the County Annex building with a total cost of $4,480. 
  • Make minor salary modifications to dispatchers and hiring an additional part-time dispatcher

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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