The $94,000 grant, approved Monday during Commissioners Court, will be part of the Border Star Technology Project. The grant must still be approved by the state.
Operation Border Star was created in 2007 by Gov. Rick Perry to increase law enforcement presence in rural counties near the Texas-Mexico border. Also the initiative awards grants to those sheriffs to purchase equipment and pay officers overtime in order to prevent crime along the border.
Sgt. Ronnie Jones presented information to County Judge David Silva and the four county commissioners, explaining what the grant money would go toward.
The grant proposal is for new equipment to help law enforcement keep up with new technology. Specifically the money will be used to purchase new computer systems which will be synced with the data records management systems currently used at the sheriff’s office and mount them in all patrol vehicles.
“Basically what this does, it will keep deputies in the field,” Sgt. Jones said.
This will allow deputies more time on patrol while also having the ability to file paperwork from their vehicles’ laptop that will use a wireless card.
The grant also would pay for two thermal imaging devices to assist deputies in search and rescue. These cameras will give law enforcement the ability to see suspects or rescue people, especially at night, because the device produces a thermal image in real time from heat detected, which is then turned into an electrical signal.
Sheriff Carlos Carrizales is excited about the prospect of receiving this technology grant and approval of the proposal by the Commissioners Court because of the impact it will have on the department’s ability to fight ever-evolving crime.
“We may be a little behind (technologically) because the fact we are a small town,” Carrizales said. “We are always looking to provide a better service, protection for the people of Bee County and not doing it at the expense of local taxpayers is always a plus.”
Judge Silva echoed the thoughts of the sheriff.
“It’s hard for smaller counties to keep up because it’s so expensive,” Silva said. “Whenever we can get grants, that makes it easier and helps us get the things that we need to get.”
Other items were on the agenda and all were approved by the court.
An ad hoc committee for technology was sought out to help the county’s Web site run smoothly. After it was set up, there have been some problems not only with the Web site, but also with the county’s server. The county does not have sufficient funds to hire a full-time IT person.
According to the judge, the state and all the counties’ Internet carrier, e-mail service and website maintenance are run by the Austin-based company, CIRA. Silva said that the main goal was to get the Bee County Web site up and running, but the long-term plan for the site was neglected. CIRA will be working with the county and plans to fix the Web site.
“I think this might have the greatest and longest lasting impact of all the items that we covered today,” the judge said.
Other items included:
• A $7,689.33 increase to the Bee Community Action Agency’s Texas Department of Agriculture Home Delivered Meal Grant Program budget for personnel.
• Finding the proper funds to purchase a new computer for public use at the courthouse.
• Virginia Cherry appointed as Expo Center board member for Precinct No. 2 vacancy.
• Blandina Costley appointed 2010 investment officer for the Commissioners Court.
The court also discussed procedures for early voting in the primary elections which begins Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the courthouse.