The Johnson County Commissioners Court addressed law enforcement and other public safety requests and needs during their Monday meeting. Commissioners also honored Purple Heart veterans.
Vehicle procurement remains a challenge, Sheriff Adam King told commissioners. Most new replacement vehicles commissioners approved for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for the current budget year have yet to arrive, King said. Shortages of chips necessary for vehicles, global supply chain issues, rising costs and other factors play into the situation, King added.
Several dealerships have increased prices and/or refused to honor earlier bids.
“This goes back to discussions we had during the last commissioners court meeting on the difficulty of getting vehicles,” King said. “The Chevy Tahoes that were approved, we don’t know when they’’’ become available or at what price.”
King said 10 Dodge Chargers have been found, however, available through Donalson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in the amount of $37,156 each.
Given the difficulty of finding vehicles, commissioners approved the purchase, which American Rescue Plan Act funds will pay for.
King, through a separate agenda item, requested one to three Ford F-150 responder vehicles for JCSO.
“We have one we can put our hands on now for $39,549,” King said. “Then two more we can put under order for $49,594. The price has jumped that much.”
It’s unknown too, King added, when the two additional vehicles will come available.
“But I figured we may as well get the one now while it’s still available and save $10,000,” King said.
Commissioners approved purchase of the available vehicle and told King to get back with them when and if the other two become available.
Commissioners approved too a contract between JCSO and Dentrust Dental for inmate dental services.
Inmates suffering dental problems are now transported to area dentists for treatment. Dentrust, however, will bring their mobile dental unit to the jail twice monthly, King said.
“They bring their chairs, X-ray machines, equipment and all of that,” King said. “This will reduce travel and gas expenses and increase security.”
County Judge Roger Harmon agreed.
“You guys know better than me that those inmates will say anything to get out of that jail for an hour or two,” Harmon said. “This stops that.”
Commissioner Larry Woolley asked how the new arrangement will affect dental emergencies.
“Would they have to wait for the twice a month visits?” Wollley asked.
Under the contract, the company will make emergency calls in such cases, King said.
Commissioners also approved an amendment of the jail’s contract with Global Tel*Link, extending the county’s current contract with the company through Sept. 25, 2027.
The system provides the phone service used by inmates, services the inmates pay for themselves.
“What we’ve been dealing with is a backlog of inmates at the jail because of Covid-19,” King said. “That’s caused a backlog in court hearings and cases. We have 17 at the jail awaiting trial for murder and other cases on top of that and they’ve been waiting on their cases at the jail because of Covid-19.”
The issue is that prosecuting and defense attorneys frequently request records and recordings of phone calls made or received by inmates, data retained by Global Tel*Link for a specified period of time.
“Our courts have encouraged us to negotiate a longer term of retention from the company,” King said. “Under this new agreement, those records will be retained for five years which, we hope, will give courts time to clear those cases.”
The new agreement simply extends the length of the contract but does not increase the county’s annual rate charge, Johnson County Attorney Bill Moore said.
Johnson County Emergency Management Director Jamie Moore requested $121,000 to upgrade hardware and software equipment at the county’s emergency management center. Much of the existing equipment is out of date or past its useful life, Moore said. The new equipment proposed, Moore said, will improve communications among staff and rescue workers and otherwise aid in the center’s ability to address emergency situations.
Commissioners plan to take Moore’s request under consideration during upcoming budget talks.