It took most of the day, but the Johnson County Commissioners Court managed to work through all the county department head’s budget presentations during their Monday called meeting saving themselves the need for a second called meeting on Tuesday.
The county’s new budget year begins Oct. 1.
Johnson County Sheriff Adam King took up the bulk of Monday’s evening session.
The number of registered sex offenders residing in unincorporated areas of Johnson County increased from 370 in 2017 to 597 today, JCSO Chief Deputy Mark Reinhardt said. One residence that served as home to multiple offenders sat within 400 feet of a school, Reinhardt added.
County population growth in general plays a role in the increase, King said, but other factors play in as well.
“Cities have the authority to pass laws restricting sex offenders from schools and other places children are likely to be, but counties don’t have that same authority,” King said. “So a lot of sex offenders simply move out of the cities including Fort Worth and Dallas and into unincorporated county areas.”
Often times several of them live together in rent houses or mobile homes, King said.
King and other county officials have been working with state Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, and state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, to push for legislation granting counties the same authority to pass restrictive measures on where sex offenders may live. Although Burns and Birdwell have been supportive, they’ve so far been unable to convince the majority of their colleagues in the Legislature.
Which leaves the sheriff’s office to monitor and handle the situation as best possible and JCSO’s lone sex offender detective overworked.
“[Sex offenders] come in all day long on Thursdays to register,” King said. “We have to keep tabs on them, check in and visit where they live, which is getting harder to do as that population keeps increasing. But we have to keep up with them because they will take advantage of the system.”
Opposition to granting counties the authority to make such rules comes from property owners who benefit by renting homes to such offenders, commissioners said.
“We’ve pushed for it before and it fell on deaf ears outside of our local representatives,” Commissioner Larry Woolley said. “But we have to keep pushing because counties have to have the right to put these rules in place just like cities do. It blows my mind that we don’t because it’s only right. Unfortunately, the state’s not a big fan of giving local control to counties or cities right now so this probably isn’t the best time to be pushing for it, but we have to keep pushing on all the same.”
Woolley said it also blows his mind that some actually oppose such legislation.
“But, when I said that before, I received phone calls and emails in opposition, and not from Johnson County people,” Woolley said.
King asked to hire a second sex offender compliance deputy to help with the growing work load.
“With the population growing that is something we absolutely have to stay on top of and can’t drop the ball on,” King said.
JCSO’s pay scale is such that, in many cases, an officer accepting a promotion in many cases winds up taking a pay cut from what he or she earned in the previous position. King called upon the court to authorize stipends to address such inequities. Given that such promotions usually occur when another officer retires, King said the adjustments could be funded through the department’s current budget.
County Judge Roger Harmon said it’s important that JCSO’s pay scale is such that it attracts quality officer candidates especially given the controversies and challenges law enforcement departments across the country face today.
drug testing costs
King requested an increase in his department’s fees and services account.
“Because of changes in state laws marijuana has to meet a certain threshold to be considered illegal,” King said. “The CBD oil legislation made this change and legislators didn’t really think everything through on that. So now, the cost of THC content in [suspected marijuana] is done by only a few private labs, that state labs don’t do that. So, for us to be able to prosecute a marijuana possession case anymore we have to send it to one of those private labs to be tested, which costs more.”
King also requested 13 new vehicles for detectives, patrol officers and transport officers as well as new tasers for all deputies.
The current model used by JCSO is no longer being manufactured nor are parts available. Many are broken beyond repair and some work off and on, Chief Deputy Mark Saulter said.
Commissioners also heard from Public Works Director David Disheroon, Veteran Services Officer Kathryn Fasci and Tax Assessor/Collector Scott Porter during the evening session.
Fasci requested a part-time employee to assist with data entry duties.
“We have over 11,000 vets in Johnson County,” Fasci said. “The forms to register for their benefits are getting longer, more complicated and more is required. We’re here to honor and assist our vets but it’s a lot of work and it’s getting crazier. I wish I could say it’s getting easier, but it’s not.”
Disheroon requested a new truck, adding that the truck he uses now was there before he started his job and has 192,000 miles on it.
Porter requested two additional employees to help at the soon-to-be expanded and renovated Burleson Sub-Courthouse satellite office.
Commissioners made no decisions on requests made Monday.
“Scott Porter and [County Auditor Kirk Kirkpatrick] will have a better picture of where we are on our numbers by next week at which point we’ll be able to start figuring out what we can and cannot do in the upcoming budget year,” Harmon said.