The debate has gotten a lot of mileage, even if the peace justices haven’t.
An issue that has sparked spirited debate in the past was raised again this week when County Commissioners considered a request for justices of the peace to be given mileage for the weeks they are on call after hours.
The issue was tabled after discussion that included pointed questions raised by Precinct 2 Commissioner Dick Roan and Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Berry about county policy and departmental travel budgets .
Precinct 3 Commissioner Jeff Tout, who had asked for the matter to be put on the agenda, stated that mileage for the JPs would be compensation for “after hours, during times they are on call.”
The county has a justice of the peace for each of its four precincts. The JPs take turns – a week at a time – responding to after-hours calls. Among other duties, they respond to accident scenes to make death pronouncements.
Commissioners addressed the after-hours mileage issue before by giving the JPs a “pool car” – a Ford Taurus that had been used by an investigator in the district attorney’s office. Gas for the car comes from the JP’s departmental fuel budgets. Berry said that not all of the JPs have used the car.
Tout stated that mileage for the peace justices would be comparable to the cost of maintaining the “pool car.” County Judge Darrell Cockerham commented that the heater in the Ford Taurus “doesn’t work.”
Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Danny Tuggle told Berry that he will be “glad to compare notes” with him regarding disagreements they have that include whether a previous Commissioners Court raised JP salaries to allow for mileage.
Hood County peace justices currently are paid $61,000 annually. According to Berry, JPs in neighboring Johnson County are paid less – $54,000 – and they are given an annual stipend of $1,154 to cover mileage.
“I’m not opposed to revisiting this, but it needs to be done during budget,” Berry stated.
Budget workshops are held during the summer to set the budget for the next fiscal year, which always starts on Oct. 1.
Berry said that elected officials know the salary before they run for office. He expressed concern about other elected officials who also drive on the job.
As an example, he said that Treasurer Kathy Davis sometimes drives from her office on West Pearl Street to the county auditor’s office in Acton. The same can be said for Tax Assessor-Collector Teresa McCoy, who has a satellite office in Acton, he remarked.
“It’s not a huge deal,” Berry told the HCN on Wednesday. “I just don’t know why it keeps coming up.”
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