County names advisory board for dispatch center

By Lisa Treiber-Walter

Gillespie County officials took another step Monday toward combining the county and city dispatch operations at the new jail.

Meeting in regular session at the courthouse, commissioners voted unanimously to form an advisory committee for future input as the dispatch centers are consolidated.

Chosen to serve on that advisory panel are five regular members, plus two ex-officio members, including: Gillespie County Sheriff Buddy Mills, Fredericksburg Police Chief Steve Wetz, Emergency Management Coordinator John Culpepper, County Fire Marshal Steve Olfers and City of Fredericksburg Public Works Director Clinton Bailey, plus one ex-officio member apiece from the county and the city governing entities.

County elected officials volunteered Commissioner Donnie Schuch to serve as the county’s ex-officio representative on the advisory board, while Fredericksburg City Councilmen are expected to appoint their city representative during a 7 p.m. Monday meeting at the Gillespie County Law Enforcement Center.

While the advisory committee will reportedly begin meeting this month, County Auditor Larry Crump advised commissioners that they should not place the burden of a budget on the appointees.

Instead, he suggested, budget calculations and projections should fall under the authority of the person chosen to supervise the dispatch center.

“I don’t feel that’s the responsibility of the advisory board,” Schuch agreed.

The sheriff informed commissioners that, for decades, budget duties for the dispatch centers have been performed through a collaborative effort on behalf of the police chief and the sheriff.

Also during Monday’s meeting, commissioners approved and signed updated contracts that obligate the county tax assessor-collector’s office to collect property taxes through Sept. 30, 2014, on behalf of the Fredericksburg Independent School District (ISD), the Harper ISD and the City of Fredericksburg.

Those three (of the county’s four) major taxing bodies have already indicated  they plan to switch to the Gillespie Central Appraisal District as their new tax collector next year.

At the same time on Monday, commissioners approved similar contracts guaranteeing Gillespie will collect property taxes in 2014 on behalf of the remaining, smaller local taxing entities — the Doss Common Consolidated School District, Hill Country Underground Water Conservation District, Stonewall Water Control and Improvement District (WCID) and the Gillespie County WCID.

Although the smaller groups have not reportedly voted to change collectors yet, they are expected to make a decision soon.

Otherwise, Gillespie Judge Mark Stroeher said the county might choose not to offer collections for the smaller entities, “because we’ll get in a situation that, if those major entities are going to move to the appraisal district, then it just makes sense for the other entities to move as well, and not for us to keep collecting for some of the little ones.

“It would just cost more money for the taxpayers and be less efficient,” he said.

In fact, if all entities made the move, it would just leave the County of Gillespie, and Stroeher said, at that point, commissioners might consider approaching county tax assessor-collector Marissa Weinheimer to release the county so that it, too, can have its taxes collected by the appraisal district.

“It just makes more sense, better sense,” Stroeher said.

In other business Monday, commissioners:

• Approved the use of additional office space by the Veteran’s Service Office.

• Approved new fiber feed to the Gillespie County Jail and a new telephone system with Time Warner Cable, which the county’s information technology director John Keller said will produce “a big drop in costs.”

• Approved a $3,037 VeraSmart phone call system for the jail facility, which will allow for the auditing of long-distance calls “so we can track what’s happening” and where calls originate from, Keller said.

• Approved additional connection switches and licenses for the new telephone system, at a cost of $8,482.

• Approved a dispatch voice recorder upgrade, at a cost of $3,078.

• Approved a 2014 electronic data processing contract with the appraisal district at a cost of $825 per month, as well as approved a lease agreement for the appraisal district’s 2,771 square feet of office at a lease price of $1,526 per month (with a 90-day termination notice requirement).

• Agreed to lease the Automark voting machines to the city for the May 2014 election.

• Accepted the donation of furniture and other items from the Hill Country University Center.

• Approved advertising for personnel in the custodial department and approved hiring (upon the completion of necessary pre-hire tests) Daniel Eckhardt, Carl Walker and Brent Rode in Precinct 4. Entry level wages for Walker and Rode will be $13.41 per hour, while Eckhardt is a rehire at $13.57 per hour.

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