Carter County’s magistrates and county judge executive discussed budget concerns during a special meeting Tuesday, and agreed to lift restrictions applied at the start of the ongoing pandemic.
Finances and budget considerations for the county sheriff’s department, as well as the county attorney’s staff was of immediate concern as the board weighed in on a $75,000 request from the county attorney as well as a $500,000 increase in the sheriff’s proposed budget.
“We don’t have enough money to do all that right now,” County Judge Executive Mike Malone said.
The sheriff’s department request would bring that total allotment to $850,000 the magistrates were informed, which would have to be specified for use either as wages and expenses or equipment.
County Attorney Brian Bayes said “not one penny” of his requested increase would go into his own pocket, but would instead be crucial in keeping staff members who are dealing with a massive caseload.
“I think we have one of the highest caseloads in the … any other county around,” Bayes said, explaining he has already lost one staff member to a higher paying position.
“If I lose Leeandra … Let’s not even contemplate that,” Bayes said.
Fiscal court members approved $40,000 for the county attorney’s office, prompting Bayes to say “I’ll make it work.”
Malone and the magistrates then turned their attention to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and local reaction to the situation. Carter County has been under a “state of emergency” status.
“I think we acted with the best information available and did what we thought was right at the time,” Malone observed.
“It’s time, I think, that we vacated that declaration and get out of the way of business. I want old people to stay safe but this business of ‘You can’t go to church and can go to the grocery store’ – splitting all these hairs has not been good,” he added.
Malone cited quick and effective action by staff at Carter Nursing & Rehabilitation, as well as the low number of local cases and low population density among the reasons for lifting current local restrictions.
“I recommend we return to normal – allow return to work and church,” he said, adding people should be advised “the sheriff won’t be there to arrest you if you sing a song or gather” while also telling everyone to “use good sense” under the circumstances.
Fiscal court members voted unanimously to rescind Carter County’s state of emergency status.
Magistrates also discussed: creating room inside the old courthouse for children’s therapy sessions provided through FIVCO; declaring an old vault door and frame in the county attorney’s office surplus property and allowing it to be auctioned off; and the future of the old county jail, which is now used essentially for storage.
Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON
Carter County Post