Officials discussed the request placed on the agenda by Chief Deputy Robert Ebrom, Jr. during the April 30 meeting of Commissioners Court.
Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva told the court that the new deputies were needed to respond to an ever-increasing number of traffic accidents.
“Our current manpower right now is not sufficient enough to cover all of the calls for service and will not be able to adequately enforce traffic laws,” Villanueva said.
Deputies responded to 40 accidents last month, and several months last year deputies responded to between fifty and seventy accidents per month, Villanueva explained.
County Commissioner James Rosales, who served as county judge pro tem during the meeting due to the absence of County Judge Richard Butler, asked Villanueva how long it would take to train the new deputies.
“About ninety days,” Villanueva answered.
Chief Deputy Ebrom told the court that one of the positions would be as a full time license and weights officer.
“They would have to go to a minimum six-week program to learn license and weights,” Ebrom said. “The number of traffic violations, the number of people violating the law on the highways and county roads is what is causing that large amount of accidents, so we want to focus on that,” Ebrom said.
The plan is to concentrate enforcement during “rush hours” when local traffic is at its peak.
The six new deputies would concentrate on traffic, Villanueva explained, but would be available for other duties as well, when needed.
Rosales noted that the number of citations issued by deputies this year was fewer than last year.
Villanueva explained that was largely due to the resignation of the county’s license and weights deputy, and that the position has not yet been restaffed. Also, Ebrom noted, because deputies are having to spend so much time responding to accidents, they have been unable to perform routine traffic enforcement and issue citations.
County Auditor Lajuana Kasprzyk said based on the local government code, the request does not qualify as an emergency or unforeseen circumstance.
“It was discussed during the budget workshop to hire 12 additional positions and the commissioners court voted to only hire six,” Kasprzyk said. “I don’t see how this can be done mid-year. Of course it is at the discretion of the court.”
Maurice Yarter, who was in the audience at the meeting, said he disagreed with the auditor’s opinion. He said the current situation is not only an emergency, but a crisis. He said in one situation, the response time to a call was 45 minutes because the manpower was all tied up responding to traffic accidents.
“I am a very conservative person,” Yarter said. “I don’t believe in spending money that we don’t need to spend, but there are some areas we need to spend money on and one of them is the safety of this county.”
Commissioner Tracey Schendel reminded the court of the recent speed limits approved by the court.
“We all voted on the speed limits and everything but if we don’t hire any more deputies, how are we going to control those speed limits?” Schendel asked.
Commissioner Shelby Dupnik said that he was in favor of hiring the additional deputies.
Rosales asked County Attorney Herb Hancock if the item could legally qualify as an emergency or unforeseen situation.
Hancock said that in his opinion, the situation is an emergency and would legally qualify as an emergency expenditure.
Dupnik made a motion to approve the request to hire the additional six deputies. Schendel seconded the motion the motion carried with all voting in favor.