BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS
GILMER–The Upshur County Commissioners Court on Monday accepted the resignation of Precinct 3 Constable Stanley Jenkins, effective Oct. 31, and approved posting the job opening on the county’s website for a potential appointed replacement.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Mike Spencer, who presided over Monday’s meeting in the absence of ill County Judge Dean Fowler, said the court has the option of leaving the post vacant for the two months and two years remaining on Jenkins’ term, but officials indicated they would rather appoint a replacement since funding for the position has been budgeted.
Spencer read Jenkins’ brief letter of resignation, in which the constable thanked those who had worked with him during his 34 years in law enforcement, but gave no reason for his decision to retire. Spencer said he believed Jenkins was leaving for health reasons.
Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace-elect (and former Sheriff) Anthony Betterton told commissioners an appointed replacement need not live in the precinct (which includes Gladewater, Big Sandy and Pritchett), but if they do not, they cannot seek election to the post in 2020.
In other business Monday, the court discussed, but took no action on, three items on the agenda–establishing a policy concerning usage of county vehicles, acting “on the financial position of the health insurance fund,” and placing a dumpster at each county barn to replace the practice of allowing free dumping a few days yearly.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Frank Berka said he was on an 8-member committee which had discussed the potential vehicle policy, and detailed options it provided for who could take home county-owned vehicles, and whether to restrict personal use of such vehicles to miles commuting to and from work.
If other personal use is allowed, Berka said, the committee recommended employees must keep a log of all miles driven, and that personal miles would be subject to payroll federal taxes. County Auditor Brandy Lee said employees are charged $3 per round-trip for commuting to work in such vehicles.
When the subject of payroll taxes on employees’ vehicle use arose, Lee said she asked Sheriff Larry Webb to send her certain information, but “I never got it.” After the meeting, Webb said “It’s not correct–her assumption or what she’s saying.”
Spencer, meanwhile, suggested firming up the list of proposed options and putting the matter on the court’s Oct. 31 agenda.
Concerning the health insurance fund, Spencer said many claims have come in, and Berka said the county must move $255,000 from reserve funds to cover health insurance-related expenses, which were exceeding budget. But Lee said the court could delay acting until it sees what reimbursement it gets on its “stop-loss” policy.
Berka said “hopefully, we’ve got a handle” on health insurance expenses in the county’s new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. He also encouraged older persons on the county’s insurance to go on Medicare instead since it “will benefit themselves in most cases” and help the county financially.
As for the dumpster proposal, Spencer said it was aimed at trying “to alleviate some of the litter problems.” Precinct 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry said Betterton had worked for the Road and Bridge Department (after being defeated for re-election as sheriff), and had suggested putting the dumpsters at all county barns so residents could dump any time.
Jail inmates would collect the garbage on Mondays, she said.
Gentry said grants which helped pay the cost of providing free dumping days in the past have been reduced, and that the county was not guaranteed to get such funding in the future. The county budgets $11,000 each fiscal year for “hosting” free dumping, lest it receive no grant funding, she noted.
“There’s a lot of issues with free dump days,” Gentry said earlier, noting the last segment had 278 participants. “We had people shooting at us” during one, and persons on probation can no longer help with such occasions due to that, so the sheriff’s office would utilize jail inmates to help with garbage collection, she said.
But Spencer had said that the county had a contract with the city of Gilmer to allow city residents to dump (at the county’s Road and Bridge Department just outside Gilmer), and that locating dumping at county barns would not be good for everyone.
Berka added that items were thrown over the fences at such barns when they were closed, and that he had picked up tires and batteries. In addition, “We’re breaking even (financially) on what we’re doing,” he said.
“I suggest we leave it (the policy) like it is,” said Berka, and the court gave no indication it would discuss the issue again.
Also on Monday, the court appointed Dan Miles Jr. to the Upshur County Child Welfare Board.
County Road Administrator Andy Jordan, who has a history as a foster parent, told the court Miles becomes the board’s fifth member, and that the entity puts together Christmas gifts for foster children. The board also has a “Rainbow Room,” providing such items as child car safety seats and clothes for foster families, he said.
“They work in conjunction with” Child Protective Services, Jordan added. “It is a wonderful thing.” Berka, meantime, requested that those interested in serving on the board contact their county commissioner.
In other business Monday, the court agreed to request proposals for food for the county jail.
It also set the COBRA rates for employees who leave the county’s employ, but carry their insurance to their next job; heard New Diana ISD Supt. Carl Key invite members to visit his or another public school during “Public School Month”; approved placing signs for “Domestic Violence Awareness” on county property; and correct minor errors by writing off old balances in certain county funds.