County may consider asking city to chip in on cost of services

Mark Wilson
Somervell County commissioners vote on one of the items on the agenda during Monday's regular monthly meeting.

The Somervell County Commissioners Court heard from Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Dwayne Griffin on the topic of sharing.

Griffin let the commissioners know that the Sheriff’s Office would like to take a look at the costs involved in providing services to the city of Glen Rose.

“We’re trying to do services for the entire city — which we do, and we provide great services,” Griffin said during his presentation Monday morning during the commissioners regular monthly meeting. “I think it’s time they pay their share for the law enforcement or fire department inside the city.”

Griffin said that could include officer costs, fire equipment and patrol vehicles.

Statistics presented to the commissioners show that starting in January 2014 through April 19 of this year, calls for service through the local 911 dispatch system for the city of Glen Rose accounted for 48.97 percent of the call volume. The dispatch services, which are handled by the Sheriff’s Office, took 61,627 calls and 30,176 were for inside the city. The county accounted for the remaining 31,424 calls during that sample period.

EMS and fire calls to 911 from within the city accounted for 43.67 percent. Of the 2,615 calls during that same time frame, 1,142 were within the city, and 1,461 were county calls.

County Judge Danny Chambers explained that the presentation by Griffin was only “food for thought” — a recommendation that the commissioners could eventually consider.

“They’re just looking at all of the options,” Chambers said. “The commissioners need to talk about it.”

Chambers explained that after the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant was constructed in the mid-1970s and went online in about 1989, the county was able to absorb those costs. The cost-sharing issue with the city was not addressed before the tax income from the plant became a huge factor. Budget considerations for local law enforcement, fire and EMS services were not as significant as they are now.

Last year, the county along with the Glen Rose ISD, the Glen Rose Medical Center board and the local water district tightened their budgets after Luminant Power, which owns the plant, fought to lower its considerable assessed tex value.

The commissioners made a decision voting on several agenda items.

Mike Jones, a local veterinarian and an outgoing member of the Glen Rose City Council, was named as the county’s new rabies control authority, by 5-0 vote. The agreement with Jones is to pay him $200 per month, starting May 16.

The commissioners took no action on a fee structure for Animal Control services.

Recently, the city of Glen Rose announced that it would no longer service the rest of the county outside the city limits. Animal Control also will no longer accept stray animals brought in from county property without payment of a $25 fee.

“We’re in negotiations with the city at this point,” Commissioner Larry Hulsey said during the meeting.

Chambers then added, “We’ve been in discussion on this for about seven months now.”

Commissioners did, however, vote 5-0 to approve the purchase of equipment that deputies can use in dealing with dangerous animals such as dogs who present a threat of biting. The items include three pair of protective “bite gloves” ($450 total); two catch poles ($150 each) and a cage, which could range anywhere from the cheapest option of a $1,150 wire cage, up to $3,000 for a more secure aluminum cage that can hold two animals.

“So we’re not getting into the stray dog business?” County Auditor Brian Watts asked Griffin, who responded, “We’re going to deal with bad dogs and the bites.”

By 5-0 vote, the court accepted Craig Dodson’s resignation from the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD). Dodson, a former Somervell County constable and former local Sheriff’s Office deputy, was arrested in late April and faces a third-degree felony charge of theft of property, $20,000 to $100,000 (aggregated).