Breckenridge Texan

County-wide burn ban reinstated

County-wide burn ban reinstated
November 26
13:32 2018

Stephens County Commissioners voted to reinstate the county-wide burn ban for Stephens County at their meeting this morning, Nov. 26. County Judge Gary Fuller said commissioners had spoken with Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney and he had recommended putting the burn ban back in place.

Commissioners also voted to prohibit or restrict the sale or use of restricted fireworks in unincorporated areas in Stephens County during the upcoming New Year’s holiday firework season. Prohibited fireworks are described as skyrockets with sticks and missiles with fins.

They also voted to advertise for sealed bids for the purchase of crushed rock and road materials for 2019. Fuller said they will open the received bids during the next meeting on Dec. 10.

Nov. 13 meeting

Sheriff Department vacation pay and policy

During their last meeting, the County Commissioners voted to pay the Sheriff’s Office deputies and jailers for any unpaid vacation they have earned but will be unable to use by the end of the year. Normally, the county does not pay employees for unused vacation, but the commissioners agreed to make an exception for the deputies and jailers because of extenuating circumstances that prevented them from taking their vacation days.

Stephens County Sheriff Will Holt told commissioners during the meeting that the unusual circumstances were partly a result of the department being short-handed in the jail and having three inmates in the hospital, requiring 24-hour guard. He said because of the shortages and required guards at the hospital, several of the employees were unable to take off for vacation because they did not have enough employees to cover all of the duties while anyone was off.

Holt said one of the inmates was in the hospital for one month, another one for two-and-a-half weeks and a third one for one week. During that time, the inmates were required to have 24-hour guards in the hospital. Also, Holt said his department was short between one and two employees during that time. He reported that the jail has since filled all of the open positions.

The sheriff said he was making the one-time request for the deputies and jailers to be paid their vacation this year and that in the future they will work hard at trying to make sure that the deputies and jailers take their vacation before the end of the year.

At first, commissioners said they were unable to pay the jailers and deputies for their unused vacation because of the county’s employee policy which prohibits employees from being paid for any unused vacation. They said the policy requires employees to take all of their vacation during the year which they earned it.

However, after a lengthy discussion, the commissioners voted to modify the employee policy to separate out the way shift workers for the sheriff’s department, such as deputies and jailers, are handled since they have unusual duties. At times, the sheriff is unable to let anybody take time off because the department has to keep all of the spots manned at all times.

The change in the policy allows the deputies and jailers to be paid for any vacation time they have remaining at the end of 2018 and in the future if they are unable to take their vacation because of extenuating circumstances.

County employee school policy

Commissioners also approved a new policy requiring non-elected county employees to reimburse the county for the cost of any school they attend that is paid for by the county if they leave the employment of the county within one year. The cost of the school will be deducted from the last paycheck of the employee.

Accepting bids for old county backhoes

Commissioners also voted to accept bids for the county’s two old backhoes they are selling. During their Oct. 9 meeting, they had voted to purchase a new backhoe for the county. The starting bids for the two backhoes are $5,000 for the oldest one and $15,000 for the newer one.

Funds from sale of old sheriff vehicles

They also agreed to designate all the funds received from the sale of four old sheriff’s department vehicles from an auction that ended on Oct. 23 to the second payment on the department’s new patrol vehicles. The department raised approximately $15,500 from the sale of the old vehicles.

In other business at the Nov. 13 meeting, commissioners approved a resolution by the Texas Association of County Governments in opposition of unfunded mandates by the state government.

 

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Sheriff Will Holt, center, talks to the Stephens County Commissioners at the Nov. 13 meeting about paying deputies and jailers for unused vacation time. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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