McLennan County commissioners created two positions Tuesday to provide full-time, consistent security presence at the adult probation building.

The Community Supervision and Corrections Department, formerly adult probation, is located in a building not covered by courthouse security and has had to hire officers from various law enforcement agencies to perform security work, County Attorney Mike Dixon said. Relying on officers who already have full-time jobs, and only being able to offer relatively low pay, resulted in varying degrees of skill, competency and work ethic, he said.

“With the way the world is going now, more and more companies are hiring off-duty officers for security and they are paying a lot better,” Dixon said.

The department faced a security crisis, Dixon said.

The sheriff’s office agreed to assist by providing two deputies to work security at the Community Supervision and Corrections Department, Dixon said. Adult probation director William W. “Chip” Seigman is able to cover three quarters of the $128,000 annual cost out of the department budget and is asking the county to pick up the rest of the tab, Dixon said.

There is a higher concentration of criminals at the Community Supervision and Corrections Department than at the courthouse, which has security, Dixon said. At least 3,089 probationers, of 5,031 total probationers on supervision, report to the office each month. The presence of security personnel prevents problem behaviors and diffuses potentially volatile situations, he said.

Dixon said he was also blown away by how many leads a deputy would get standing in the lobby listening to people discuss criminal activity.

The Community Supervision and Corrections Department security spending will almost double from $65,000, but the jump is worth it, Seigman said.

“It’s a matter of us having somebody who is professional and knows the system in the county, and having someone on site like that would be a godsend, it really would,” Seigman said.

Timekeeping

Commissioners also potentially brought an end to an issue Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell said has been deferred for more than a year.

Snell again requested the county allow elected officials and department heads interested in a timekeeping system to adopt a program researched by a committee. Snell said about 115 employees would like to go onto a system, and he had the funds budgeted.

His motion to approve the move died for lack of support.

County Judge Scott Felton and County Auditor Stan Chambers said they had heard concern from department heads and elected officials about the current system. The duo said the concern came from individuals led to believe the county was out of compliance and therefore had to move to the system. Chambers reiterated the county is not out of compliance with federal requirements.

Chambers, who said he bought his own time clock, said he believes there is a less expensive way to monitor hours worked than what was being proposed.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry said if a department head or elected officially voluntarily wants on the system proposed by Snell, he would support the move.

“But to lead them to believe they’ll be in trouble if they don’t get on board, I’m not OK with that,” Perry said. “It’s been leveraged there’s a problem. It’s been leveraged we’re not doing things right and that’s totally bogus.”

Snell made another motion to allow department heads and elected officials interested in getting on the system he proposed to do so if interested. The motion passed, with Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Jones voting against it. Jones said he wanted more information.

Commissioners then approved a budget request from the health services department to move $300 out of one line-item to another line-item to allow for the purchase of a time clock.

Snell opposed the motion.

“We just approved, that day, that we could order and implement the time clock system that we have been trying to get done for a year,” Snell said after the meeting. “The one that was vetted by IT, the one that works with every system that we have, then (Health Services director Eva Cruz-Hamby) wants to buy an off-the-wall time clock. That’s going to be another way of doing it that isn’t the same as everyone else.”

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Recommended for you