During an Oct. 27 meeting, several community members, as well as WCSO Lt. Mark Luera and members of a local law enforcement association, made the case as to why the equipment was needed.
“This is extremely important to us extremely, important to the citizens of Williamson County and truly important to the deputies that work for this agency,” Luera said.
The contract allows for excess U.S. Department of Defense equipment to be deployed to local law enforcement agencies. Williamson County has had this or a similar contract in place for years, officials said. This equipment would supplement similar county-owned equipment, they said.
While the contract has been in place for several years, there were some updates to the agreement and concerns about the WCSO's poor maintenance of inventory, for which the county would be liable if anything went missing, officials said.
The contract was originally due June 15 but was not signed by Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody until June 24, officials said. It was first added to the court’s agenda June 30; however, it was pulled due to unanswered questions asked by the court, they said. It appeared on the agenda once again July 21, and it was denied.
Several commissioners said the lack of communication between the court and the WCSO led to the initial postponement and eventual cancellation of the contract. Many reiterated that if the contract and equipment were as important and needed by the agency as they said it is, Chody should have come to court himself and pleaded his case.
Instead, the sheriff sent proxies in his place three months after the agency already began to collect and dismantle equipment in order to return it to the DOD, per the contract, which has led to the use of overtime hours, Luera said.
“I'm disappointed that we're talking about it in almost November when it was voted down in July,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said. “We could have taken care of this issue a long time ago.”
Luera, who spoke at the Oct. 27 Commissioners Court meeting, added that the contentious relationship between the court and the sheriff may have been reason why Chody did not feel comfortable attending court.
Nonetheless, the court approved the contract with a guarantee from Luera that the WCSO will maintain a clean inventory catalog of borrowed equipment and continue to provide required training, per the contract.
“Once again, we're not asking for armored vehicles; we're not asking for helicopters or planes,” Luera said. “These are the bare minimum to be able to work out in the field and be effective and protect the citizens.”