Court discusses radio upgrade,juvenile residential contracts

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

October 20, 2022

The Hill County Commissioners Court approved additional purchases related to the county’s radio system upgrade, reviewed contracts related to the housing of juvenile offenders and voted on other county business in a meeting held Tuesday, October 11.

County Judge Justin Lewis said that he hoped the items on the agenda would be the last expense related to the radio transition, which will ensure that law enforcement and other emergency personnel have the ability to communicate with out-of-county agencies and eliminates dead spots where communications are difficult in the county.

“This is going to be the biggest update in public safety we’ve seen in decades in this county,” Lewis said. He added that the transition has not been cheap, but Hill County is the last link on Interstate 35 between the Red River and San Antonio not on an 800 MHz system.

With the number of multi-agency pursuits and incidents increasing along Interstate 35, Lewis said that it is growing increasingly important for agencies to have the ability to communicate effectively.

The new system is up and running, but the county is waiting on its FCC license to be able to broadcast.

The proposal before the court Tuesday was to fund a $21,000 component that had not previously been included in the package related to the county’s digital transition, which will provide hardware and the interface for recording calls that come into dispatch. County officials also determined that four more handheld radios are needed at a cost of $12,000. Commissioners approved both purchases.

The overall cost of the project has been approximately $1.3 million and is one of the efforts that the county has funded with American Rescue Plan funds.

Hill County Juvenile Probation Chief Tina Lincoln presented a list of contracts and interagency agreements to the court for approval.

The department must contract with facilities for both residential and non-residential services related to juvenile offenders in the county, with the funding covered in the department’s budget.

The latest round of contracts are with Denton County Juvenile Probation, Dallas County Juvenile Department and Taylor County Juvenile Justice Center.

Lincoln also presented an interlocal agreement with Johnson County, which has the ability to pre-pay for placements with Lake Granbury Youth Services. The agreement gives Hill County the ability to place a juvenile in a spot that Johnson County has reserved if it is not being used. Lincoln said that Hill County has used three of those beds in the past month. The agreement was described as a win-win for the counties, as it is difficult for counties to find beds for juveniles and Johnson County can recover some of its pre-paid costs when it has a spot to offer to Hill County.

The court discussed the increased costs of residential services for serious juvenile offenders, which are now over $200 per bed each day.

Lincoln said that the state has continued to cut funding for juvenile services as costs rise, but she is hopeful after recent conversations with members of the Legislative Budget Board. “I’m hoping that they realize we handle 98% of the juvenile justice system on the front end, so they need to fund us for the work and services that we’re doing. I think that we’re making some headway, and it’s been a long time coming.”

Commissioner Martin Lake pointed out that the county is paying around $1,000 per day to house juvenile offenders, something that taxpayers may not realize.

“It’s another mandate under state law,” Lewis said. “We have to pay a portion of it, if not all of it at times.”

In other action, the court voted to seek proposals to replace the chillers that cool the courthouse as they have been in service longer than their expected useful life and maintenance costs have increased.

The court will seek bids for inmate medical services at the county jail, with proposals due December 1 at 3 p.m.

Commissioners pushed back the due date for proposals to purchase the county annex property at 200 East Franklin Street to comply with advertisement guidelines. Bids will be due November 10 at 3 p.m.

The allocation of an administrative vehicle from the Hill County Sheriff’s Office to the new county radio administrator was approved by the court, along with a proposal to order a replacement vehicle for the sheriff’s office.

A donation of $2,143 from Enrique Jauregui Martinez for road work on HCR 4109 was approved and accepted by the court.

An agreement was approved with AirMedCare, the membership arm of Air Evac, to allow county employees residing in Whitney and Hillsboro—outside of Emergency Services District 2—to purchase memberships if they choose to do so.

Commissioners observed and recorded an order of the 66th Judicial District Court appointing Crystal Pustejovsky as assistant county auditor.

The court approved preliminary plats for Auten Acres, involving two lots on Farm Road 2960 near Whitney, and Baron’s Square Addition, involving multiple lots off Farm Road 2114 and HCR 3308 near Hubbard.

A final plat was approved for the McCombs Addition located on HCR 2117 in the Prairie Valley area near Whitney.

The court’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, October 25, at 8:30 a.m. in the Hill County Courtroom of the courthouse in Hillsboro.

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