Upshur Denies Giving Gas Cards to Constables
By Phillip Williams Correspondent
May 16, 2012 at 5 a.m.
GILMER - Upshur County Commissioners Court on May 15 voted 3-1 to deny giving gasoline credit cards to constables.
County Judge Dean Fowler said Pct. 2 Constable Jason Weeks had told him he was having problems obtaining gasoline and was having to drive all the way into Gilmer to obtain it at the county's Road and Bridge Dept. When the pump there went down, Fowler said, Weeks had to charge gasoline on his own card and obtain reimbursement from the county.
Fowler said Sheriff Anthony Betterton told Weeks that the constable would need to get the court's approval to get a gasoline credit card from the Sheriff's Office because Betterton couldn't grant that on his own authority.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Lloyd Crabtree, who cast the lone vote against denying the cards, said Pct. 3 Constable Jerry Kuhn had made the same complaint as Weeks about having to drive a distance to obtain gasoline at the Road and Bridge Department.
But Pct. 1 Commissioner James Crittenden said that if constables must purchase gasoline elsewhere, the county can reimburse them for it. He said granting a credit card "defeats our purpose" of buying gasoline in bulk to stock at the road and bridge office.
Fowler replied the court could take the card away from any constable if they "abuse that privilege." But Pct. 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner said three of the county's four constables are regularly in Gilmer (where the Road and Bridge office is located), and "I don't think I'm for gas cards."
Crittenden expressed fear that constables would "become lax" and use local gas stations. However, Fowler said the county should buy the officers what they needed rather than reimburse them.
Pct. 4 Commissioner Mike Spencer and Hefner then joined Crittenden in passing Crittenden's motion to deny the cards.
In other action, the court approved Hefner's proposal to receive written and oral "quarterly activity reports" from county departments that are directly under the court's control.
Hefner said he didn't want a "day-to-day daily report," but that quarterly reports would help the county be more efficient, "educate the public" on county needs, and increase accountability.
Said Spencer, "I get a lot of questions" about what certain offices do, such as "What does the fire marshal do?" Other operations impacted are the county library; the Road and Bridge Dept.; the information/technology department; and building maintenance.
County Veterans Service Officer (and former interim County Judge) Jim Bowling told the court he favored Hefner's proposal. Bowling said effectively managing budgets required formal input more than once yearly, and that quarterly accountability would force department heads to think about "uses and sources of public funds."
He cited the need for frugality in the county and urged the court to consider "altering the present policy of 'don't ask, don't tell very often.'"
Also at the May 15 meeting, the court:
Approved the low bid of $95,030 from George P. Bane Inc. for a boom-mower for the Road and Bridge Dept
Approved maintenance contracts for ALI (automatic location information) with the East Texas Council of Governments, which has taken over the county's 911 system.
Authorized executing an agreement with Komatsu Architecture to make improvements to the courthouse this fall to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Approved letting Fowler execute documents allowing the forthcoming new tenant for the county's West Texas grazing land to report only to the United States Dept. of Agriculture office in Baylor County instead of in both Baylor and Throckmorton Counties.
Approved letting the Road and Bridge Dept. pulverize Tyler St. in Big Sandy under the county's interlocal agreement with that city.
Approved transferring a truck used by the late 911 County Coordinator Gina Offield to the building maintenance department.
Accepted bids on five properties foreclosed for delinquent taxes.
Approved allowing veterans' organizations to use the courthouse's south lawn for the annual Memorial Day program next Monday.