Court raises dispatchers' starting salary [Cleburne Times-Review, Texas :: ]
(Cleburne Times-Review (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 25--Johnson County commissioners voted Monday to raise the starting salary for dispatchers in the Johnson County Sheriff's Office from $25,500 a year to $28,000, in an effort to get the department fully staffed and eliminate the need for overtime.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Beeson said he asked the county's personnel director, Randy Gillespie, to survey starting pay for dispatchers at other area law enforcement agencies. Gillespie's survey found that Johnson County was at the lowest end of the pay range, with a $25,500 starting salary.
Next up the scale is Hood County, which starts its dispatchers off at $27,600.
"We never seem to be able to fill all those positions," Beeson said. "We train them and we lose them" to other agencies.
Chief Deputy Michael Powell confirmed that the sheriff's office has not been fully staffed since the beginning of this fiscal year and that the dispatcher department is down by three right now, plus one employee on medical leave and another expected to go on medical leave after surgery at the beginning of March.
Powell said that supervisors in dispatch make about $40,000 a year, and that the average salary in the department is in the $30,000-$34,000 range. But the low starting salary has a significant impact on the department's ability to attract applicants, he said.
Powell and Beeson both noted that money is available in the JCSO's budget to make the change, due to attrition, and no budget amendments are necessary. Commissioners approved the increase after Powell told them earlier in the meeting that he was canceling the request he made at the Feb. 10 commissioners court meeting to have additional overtime pay authorized for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Powell told commissioners at that meeting that new state law requirements regarding what evidence the county must provide to defendants in criminal cases coupled with the fact that the dispatchers office is chronically understaffed meant that JCSO dispatchers were having to work overtime.
Monday, however, Powell said even though JCSO has already used about 62 percent of its overtime budget for the fiscal year and is over budget based on how much of the fiscal year has elapsed, he believes the department will be able to stay within the overall overtime budget limit allowed for the year.
"We are not asking for any additional money right now," Powell said. "We will take responsibility for controlling the overtime."
Wi-Fi at Guinn
What on the surface seemed to be a routine accounting matter turned into a lengthy debate over public access Wi-Fi service at the Guinn Justice Center.
413th District Court Judge Bill Bosworth requested that commissioners amend the budget to shift $10,000 in Indigent Defense Formula Grant dollars from one section of the budget to another to cover the costs of purchasing new printers and installing them to make them available through the public access Wi-Fi connection at the courts building.
But commissioners balked when IT Director Dan Milam told commissioners that the Wi-Fi system in the Guinn Justice Center is not part of the county's network and is instead a separate system over which the county's IT department has no control. Milam said he received numerous requests from employees in the Guinn Justice Center to make Wi-Fi available to them, but that Bosworth had told him to remove the county Wi-Fi system.
Commissioners tabled the issue initially, but returned to it later in the meeting when Bosworth was in the court room to explain the situation.
Bosworth said that although the courts building was outfitted for Wi-Fi service when it was first remodeled, the former head of the county IT department told him Wi-Fi wouldn't work in the building and refused to install it. So Bosworth said he applied for and received grants to fund the installation of a public access Wi-Fi system, and that defense attorneys often used the Wi-Fi to access information during trials.
Bosworth also said that as the courts transfer to a digital platform rather than using paper documents, the Wi-Fi system will be a necessity instead of a luxury.
Milam said the current Wi-Fi system in the Guinn building creates a possibility for the county's secure computer network to be compromised. He said that if an employee has his or her computer connected through the land-line to the county's secure network and at the same time connected to the public access Wi-Fi, the secure network could be breached.
But Bosworth down-played the danger. He said that department heads would be responsible for making sure their employees did not connect their computers wirelessly, and that there is no reason for those computers to be connected through Wi-Fi anyway.
Commissioners eventually voted, 3-2, to approve the budget amendment and to allow the public Wi-Fi to remain in place, at least until they receive the results of an audit of the county's IT department and computer network performed recently by an outside consultant, and until the county gets ready to implement a new software system at the first of next year.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Jerry Stringer and Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Beeson voted against the amendment, saying they wanted more information on possible security breaches and to see results of the outside audit before making a decision.
In other action
In other action in Monday's meeting, commissioners:
-- Voted to allow the Buffalo Creek Association to erect a 6-foot-tall statute of Gen. Pat Cleburne on county-owned property near the intersection of South Buffalo Street and West Chambers Street. With the 4-foot base included, the statue will stand about 10 feet tall and will cost between $35,000 and $40,000.
-- Voted to have the insurance brokerage firm Holmes Murphy explore options for vision insurance for county employees.
-- Voted not to renew its lawn maintenance services contract with Lawn Tech Inc., and to instead have probationers completing community service requirements, under the supervision of the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, perform lawn maintenance duties at Guinn Justice Center and other county properties, except for the Johnson County Courthouse on Main Street. The county will ask for bids on lawn maintenance at the historic courthouse on Main.
-- Voted to re-appoint County Judge Roger Harmon and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rick Bailey to two-year terms on the board of directors for the Cleburne TIF No. 3.
-- Voted to appoint Robert Rubel and Louann Rubel of Burleson to the Johnson County Historical Commission.
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