WilCo budget workshop reveals county needs

Williamson County commissioners heard from several county representatives requesting additional funds for supplies and positions at a May 14 budget workshop meeting.

Sgt. Michael Smith, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper in Georgetown for the east side of the county, requested county funding for radio systems and additional pistol and rifle magazines. He said troopers want to be prepared in case a major incident occurs.

"If that issue were to happen, my question is when we arrive to a mass shooting, do you want us to be somewhat armed or fully armed?" Smith said.

Smith requested additional magazines be provided for 12 officers to lessen the possibility of having to stop to reload during a shootout.

He said he was requesting money from the county because "it's not that I don't think the state will do it, it's the number of hoops we have to jump through and the time we have to wait."

Hazardous materials division chief Marty Herrin requested that the county consider adding a fire marshal to its staff.

"The Commissioners Court will decide what the fire marshal can do," Herrin said. "You can look at state code. Nowhere does it say you have to create a code. It recommends it, but you don't have to. It's this court's decision to appoint a person."

Fire marshals are often responsible for investigating cases of suspected arson, of which Williamson County had four or five last year, by Herrin's guess.

Herrin's main concerns were for smaller cities in the county, such as Florence and Jarrell, that do not have have city fire marshals.

"I'm looking forward to [getting] the numbers. We don't have a lot of arson in this area," Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said. "I don't see a $200,000 office for arson."

Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman was also hesitant to consider funding for the position.

"Don't think it's fair to have my people pay for a fire marshal in Granger," she said.

County Attorney Dee Hobbs requested budgeting for three new criminal court prosecutors to the Justice of the Peace courts to accommodate the county's growing needs.

"Our hope is on Fridays [we can] have one prosecutor stay in the office and have two go out to JP court," Hobbs said. "I don't think it's an understatement to say my prosecutors are in court every day except Friday. When are they supposed to take calls?"

Commissioners and the county judge expressed concern about office space for additional staff, but Hobbs said space could be made.

"The dockets are backing up. We have to move forward," he said.

Hobbs also requested funds to convert the Child Protective Services department to a paperless system and $4,000 more in training funding to make up for increased costs.

For the past decade, the county has allotted $25,000 for regular training for employees, such as investigators and prosecutors, to maintain certifications. However, training costs increased this year.

Budget recommendations will be released July 17. The next budget workshop is scheduled for July 23, and the final budget will be approved in September.

Other budget requests presented May 14 included:

Director of veterans services Donna Harrell requested additional staff members to accommodate higher numbers of veterans moving to the county and looking for help with benefits.

Jay Schade of the county's technology services department requested a number of hardware and software upgrades for county offices, funding for one applications administrator and two technician positions, an electronic docket display system for the courtrooms and other equipment upgrades for various departments.

Randy Bell, Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department director, requested two additional staff slots, general maintenance funds and funding to rehabilitate or replace the all-weather track at the county's regional park.


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