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2013-01-24

Marshal's roster complete with new hire

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

After some back and forth on Thursday, Jan. 10 - and by a 3-2 decision - Bandera City Council approved a budget adjustment to the office of the City Marshal Charlie Hicks.
The $28,000 adjustment, which will be taken from cash reserves, includes increasing line items for fuel and vehicle maintenance, purchasing equipment and technical upgrades and adding a salary line for a part-time deputy marshal without benefits.
According to City Administrator Mike Cardenas, during budget workshops preceding fiscal year 2012-2013, Hicks' office sustained what later came to be regarded as draconian cuts. "We made cuts in Charlie's department to save money, but it's not going to work," Cardenas told council. "At this point, we're not over the $5,800 we allotted for fuel, but the year's not half over and we will be shortly."
He explained that fuel was being used for increased patrols within the city rather than on out-of-city forays that had occurred under the previous law enforcement regime. "Deputies in the marshal's office are doing their job - patrolling the city. We made a mistake cutting back on fuel. It never should have happened," Cardenas continued.
To a query by Councilman Jim Hannah, Hicks replied, "We very seldom go out of the city, except to attend schools and assist the sheriff's office." He added that he takes the pickup truck - acquired by the city during a drug seizure - to his residence overnight.
When Mayor Don Clark asked whether taking the pickup truck home was in the city's best interest, Hicks replied, "I'm charged with keeping the city safe and I need to be able to get here at a moments notice."
Councilman Maggie Schumacher concurred, saying that during emergencies, Hicks had arrived back in the city in record time. "The residents really appreciate that," she added.
Cardenas also pointed out that the former police chief had been allowed to keep the confiscated pickup for his personal use.
When council nit-picked hiring a second part-time deputy, Cardenas said that previously, five full time salaried officers with benefits had brought in $5,600 per month while Hicks' office with its two full time and single part-time officer brings in $4,500 monthly.
"That shows me they're out and about doing their jobs," Cardenas said. "By adding a second 20 hour per week part-time officer, the city will benefit." It was also noted that three of the five full time police officers had, in fact, administrative positions.
When Clark demurred, characterizing the current budget as "bare bones," Schumacher commented that an additional part-time deputy would alleviate the need for a separate officer in City Park. Councilman Binky Archer also noted that the city currently has extremely high cash reserves.
Additionally, Cardenas explained that some bills from the law enforcement department from fiscal year 2011-2012 were not paid in a timely manner, giving the false impression that the department is currently running a deficit. He also told council that Hicks had saved $7,600 on the purchase of a new patrol vehicle, spending only $24,000 on the fully loaded Tahoe, as opposed to the $35,000 that was budgeted.
Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier, a longtime advocate for a streamlined law enforcement presence in the city, expressed concern with the "continued expense of another employee on the books."
In response, Hicks said simply, "Things are getting bad," referencing the recent school shooting in Connecticut,
"City residents pay county taxes and the sheriff's office should be able to provide additional coverage," Hegemier countered.
"And they do, but they're busy, too and when it comes down to it, the safety of city residents rests with me," Hicks explained.
Hegemier and Hannah insinuated that the budget of the current city marshal's office is rapidly approaching that of the former police department. However, Schumacher said the council was not always informed about overages in that department's budgets. "We never got an accurate picture of what the former police department spent," she said. "When they went overbudget, the former city administrator just took care of it."
When the vote came, Hegemier and Hannah voted against the salary for the 20-hour a week deputy marshal with Schumacher, Archer and Councilman Brandi Morgan casting "yea" votes.
In an interview, Hicks said that he had selected Reserve Deputy Scott MacNaughton for the position. "I chose Scott for his dedication to this department," Hicks said. "He's been here since the inception of the city marshal system and has worked without pay. You don't find many people of his quality willing to work that long for no compensation. We are extremely lucky to have Scott."
With MacNaughton's hire, the department is up to full capacity with Hicks, full-time Deputy Marshal Mike Wedgworth and part-time Deputy Marshal Ruben Nino.
"I am very pleased the city council approved my hiring," MacNaughton said. "I love working for the city and in this environment. We have big plans for this department."
In related business, council unanimously approved re-appointing Hicks and Municipal Judge Dawn Wright for terms in office running concurrently with that of mayor.

Pictured: With the hiring of Deputy Marshal Scott MacNaughton, the city's law enforcement contingent is up to full steam with the equivalent of three full time peace officers.