Commissioners' Court OKs major raise for sheriff
Commissioners cite increased responsibilities of office, current low pay; other elected officials get 5% bump
Wrapping up a busy month of budget discussions, the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday held a public hearing and approved a salary increase for elected officials in the county for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The court approved a major increase for Sheriff Brad Norman to $112,000 per year and kept all other elected positions at an increase of 5% in a motion by Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry, who cited the increased responsibilities of the sheriff amid COVID-19 and the low pay the sheriff is presently receiving in justifying the increase.
An increase for county court-at-law judges was considered but taken off the table because those judges’ pay is indexed by the state. However, a 5% bump was added to the supplement for juvenile board services in Perry’s motion.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson expressed frustration with the lateness of consideration of the matter of elected officials’ salaries. Saying he is “sticking to his guns,” Grayson cast the lone “no” vote as the motion passed 3-1.
“We are not prepared to make these changes,” Grayson said. “It will not be fair, it will not be accurate (and) it will not be well considered. It needs to be well considered.”
In other actions, the court reinstated longevity pay for all county employees effective Oct. 1, and later added the stipulation that elected officials are excluded.
Commissioners also agreed to pay compensation time for all employees, with payment to be made on Oct. 22. Auditor Janet Martin said the comp time balances total about $37,000 for non-first responders and about $225,000 for first responders. The former was approved for payment using the General Fund, and the latter was approved for payment using American Recovery Plan Act funds.
Grayson presided over the meeting once again in the absence of County Judge Todd Little because of illness.
• Approved consent agenda items included previous meeting minutes; acceptance of various reports; interlocal work between Precinct 1 and the city of Pecan Hill involving pothole repairs; an interlocal cooperation contract with the city of Midlothian through the end of 2022; renewal of the State Case Registry contract with the state Attorney General’s Office through August 2026; and several budgetary line-item transfers.
• Commissioners approved a package of four expenditures with SHI Government Solutions, LLC, in separate votes: the purchase of Microsoft Office 365 software seats in an amount of $199,528; the BitTitan user migration bundle in the amount of $6,630; Office 365 email migration professional services for county employees for $41,232; and Office 365 email migration professional services for the Sheriff’s Office for $29,866. County IT director Teral Crawford said the migration to the Office 365 suite will greatly increase remote access to the system for county employees.
• Armored car service for Ellis County was extended through the end of February 2022. County purchasing agent E.J. Harbin said the short-term renewal with Brinks will allow time for the Treasurer’s Office and the Assessor/Collector’s Office to explore alternative options. The monthly rate of $4,172 per month will remain the same until the extension expires, at which time the company would have to negotiate a rate increase.
• The court approved the purchase of a Generac 100-kilowatt generator and transfer switch in the amount of $32,392 from Crawford Electric Supply Company. The generator will be used for the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program facility expansion.
• Commissioners authorized a $32,811 payment to Five Star Ford to purchase a Ford F-250 for the county Emergency Management Office, using American Recovery Plan Act funds.
• No action was taken on a traffic flow change at the intersection of Cunningham Meadows Road and Old Maypearl Road. The item will be considered during the court’s next meeting on Tuesday.
• The court gave approval for Baylor Scott & White to refinance bonds that were issued in 2011, with a reduction in interest rates of about three-tenths of a percent on about $40 million in bonds. The county will not be liable for payment of bonds.
• The old jail cell in the lobby of the Ellis County Jail was approved for removal at the request of Sheriff Norman, who said the old cell has no historic value and is taking up space in the lobby. Norman said the locking mechanism on the cell is rare and will be preserved.
• Commissioners approved the county’s emergency operation plan and agreed to remove the city of Midlothian from the county plan. County emergency management coordinator Samantha Pickett told the court that Midlothian has initiated its own emergency operation plan.
• A memorandum of understanding with Ellis County Youth Expo was approved that provides a framework for mutual disaster and other services. Pickett said the agreement will allow Ellis County citizens to shelter pets and livestock in the event of an emergency. An MOU with the Ellis County SPCA for similar services was also approved.