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City marshal - vehicle okay, 'we'll get back to you on other'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Although the agenda was extensive, the meeting of Bandera City Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 6, lasted only 45 minutes - mainly because the groundwork had been done two days earlier during a budget workshop.

Council approved purchasing a vehicle for the city marshal's office out of the 2011-2012 budget. Savings in the department's salary line would pay most of the $35,000 Tahoe - which would be equipped with a law enforcement package. The remaining $9,000 would be taken from the city's cash balance, coupled with trade-in value.

"If we purchase the vehicle this year, we would save $1,000," added Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher.

Even Councilman John Hegemier, long known to keep a tight rein on the city's purse strings, ceded the purchase was inevitable. "I took a look at the trade-in car and the only thing good about it was the tires.

That's it," he said.

The Impala has in excess of $100,000 miles on it. The non-licensed car also has no air conditioning.

According to Marshal Charlie Hicks, his department would keep an Explorer, Charger and a pickup truck seized during a drug bust. With the addition of the Tahoe, the other vehicles would serve as backups for reserve officers.

"The Explorer can no longer stand up for police work," he explained. The Charger, it seems, comes with its own set of problems - mainly the necessity of jumpstarting it after turning off the ignition. "It has battery issues that no one seems able to fix," Hicks said. "We had to jumpstart it twice in front of 11th Street." The battery has been replaced, as has the alternator - to no avail.

Unfortunately, when the battery dies, the vehicle's mobile camera system also shuts down. "Then it has to be re-programmed," Hicks said.

In related business, the question of increasing a part-time deputy from 20 to 30 hours a week with benefits still must be mulled over. Hegemier spoke against the increase.

Currently Ruben Ortiz is employed as a part-time deputy whose main function is patrolling Bandera City Park. Hicks proposed increasing Ortiz's workload by 10 hours a week.

Noting the increase would cost the city $16,150 annually, Hegemier said, "For 10 hours that's pretty expensive." He suggested Hicks might as well hire a second full-time officer.

"That would be fine with me," Hicks rejoined with alacrity.

Backing off that tongue-in-cheek proposal, Hegemier instead pushed for an interlocal agreement with the county for increased coverage from the Bandera County Sheriff's Office.

"That could not be finalized until the General Election in November and a new sheriff takes over," Schumacher said.

"At this point, we're already tasking the county with taking up the slack and doing investigations," Hicks said. "To accomplish our goal, we need an officer at 30 hours per week. Ruben has been doing a great job."

Hegemier's calculations noted that the 10-hour a week increase in time would equate to 520 hours of extra coverage annually at $31 per hour for the additional 10 hours.

However, according to City Administrator Mike Cardenas, without increased incentives, a part-time deputy marshal's position in the city would be relegated to a "stepping stone." "If you hire someone for 20 hours without benefits, they have no incentive to stay. We would train them and they would leave for a better position," Cardenas said.

"We're looking for someone to stay with the department for the long term," said Councilman Binky Archer.

"When you ask a law enforcement officer to work nights and weekends, it would be nice to offer them something other than pay for 20 hours," Schumacher said. "Otherwise this position will become a revolving door, which we don't want."

Although Hicks has fully activated the reserve officer contingent - deputies who work a minimum of 16 hours per month without pay - it remains difficult to schedule them during prime times. "The reserve officers all have regular jobs and fill in with us when they can," Hicks explained. He also noted that with paid deputies and reserve officers regular patrols in City Park would continue.

Council decided to make a final decision on Hicks' request for increased manpower at a later date.

Cardenas reminded council he had not factored in the 20 hour per week park patrol in City Park's budget for fiscal year 2012-2013.

In other business, council approved the purchase of two metal storage containers for the marshal's office for file retention at a cost of $4,600 each. The storage containers will be secured at the city yard, located at Cypress and 3rd streets.