County understaffing leads to excessive comp time

By Becky Brewster

Culberson County Commissioners deliberated at length on staff shortages and the rising comp time costs associated with these shortages.  Culberson County Treasurer Susie Hinojos noted that the County paid out over $2300 in comp time during the last pay period, and projected that this trend will continue unless something is done about staffing.  Jennifer Velez, Head Dispatcher, noted that the department is understaffed, and the comp time is accumulating as the existing staff tries to cover all shifts 24-7.  She explained that she has difficulty in keeping dispatchers because several of the positions are part-time.  After extensive training time and costs, the part-time dispatchers often leave whenever they get an opportunity for a full-time position elsewhere.  Velez requested the Court add one or two full-time dispatch positions to the three already on payroll which will allow her to develop a rotational schedule supplemented by occasional part-time coverage. The Court also discussed the position of cook at the County jail, noting that there is only one employee at this time trying to cover all shifts for the week leading to inordinate amounts of comp time.   “We need to start eliminating this comp time,” stressed Commissioner Cornelio Garibay.  Judge Urias stated that the comp time is not the problem, noting that “the concern is they’re short-staffed.   Even if all the accumulated comp time was paid off, the hours would just start accumulating again unless the staffing situation is addressed.  Comp time is accumulated at time and half, so for every extra hour an employee works, they bank one and a half hours of comp time.  And with the departments being understaffed, the employees are not able to take the days off to reduce the comp time accumulation. The Court agreed to advertise for applications for a full-time dispatcher, and to address the situation further during their budget process over the next two months.

Judge Urias reported that the County has a surplus pickup that could be donated to the newly formed Culberson County Search and Rescue (COMSAR) Team.  Anthony Velasquez was on hand to discuss the dynamics of the group and to request that the pickup title be held by the County for the benefit of the COMSAR.  The County’s insurance representative was on hand and informed the Court that so long as the vehicle title stayed with the County, the County’s insurance would cover it under the existing policy.  The Court authorized the COMSAR Team to use the County pickup with the County retaining the title and providing insurance coverage.

Commissioners then began the 2016-2017 Budget process by discussing various proposed projects, equipment needs, staffing issues and requests from local entities.  The County Auditor will prepare a draft budget using requests from the elected officials and file it with the County Clerk by the end of the month.  Certified Taxable Values are due from the Culberson County Appraisal District by July 25 after which the County can calculate the effective tax rate.

In other County business, the Court also

• Conducted an Executive Session with no action following in open session.

• Approved two Utility Permit Requests to cross County roads.

• Approved payment of $200 to Henry Carrasco Construction for moving a trailer three times during the Frontier Days Celebration.

• Learned that Judge Urias is working with TxDOT on a grant for a new lighting system at the airport.

• Heard reports on County Projects.

• Approved June payroll and expenses.