The latest meeting of the Gregg County Commissioners’ Court on Monday, October 8, included an approval for a new board member for a child welfare program, the renewal of a contract with an election reports provider and the consideration of a county-wide policy preventing employees from taking work vehicles home at the end of their shifts.
The meeting began with a public comment from Longview citizen Jeremiah Hunter requesting the pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag be recited at the start of commissioners’ court meetings following the pledge to the United States flag.
Next on the agenda was a proclamation from Shannon Trest, executive director of the Women’s Center of East Texas.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the proclamation by Trest was part of an annual public awareness campaign to draw attention to the issue of domestic violence.
“We should all heed the call to promote the safety of women, men and children who are subjected to violent, intimidating or controlling behavior at the hands of those who are closest to them,” Trest said. She cited statistics indicating one in four American women age 18 and older have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women.
The Women’s Center of East Texas has served battered women and their children for over 30 years, according to their website. They provide emergency shelter services, legal support and community information, among other services.
The center is encouraging people to “Go Purple” by displaying the signature color of the domestic violence awareness campaign. Participants can wear purple ribbons or clothing, put out purple flowers or use purple decorations at their homes or businesses to show their support for the campaign to end domestic violence.
The commissioners also approved a proposal to name Erik Vaca as a new member of the board of directors for the Gregg County Child Welfare Advisory Board
Vaca is an administrator at the Gregg County Juvenile Detention Center located in Longview. The welfare board promotes child abuse prevention efforts, raises money for children in foster homes and shares information about child health and safety, among other activities.
The court also considered the renewal of a service contract with Scytl, a company which provides election management tools and software, for another year.
“That was approved,” said Stoudt. “It was just a renewal of a webpage that we have attached to our webpage regrading voter election day counts. They’ve been with us about three years, it’s really worked out well.”
The services included in the contract renewal are the the Election Webpage Management and Election Night Reporting Package from Scytl.
The board also considered a motion to disallow county road and bridge employees from taking county work vehicles home with them at the end of the day.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Boyd said he had been promoting such a policy for several years because individual precincts had differing policies on the issue and he hoped for consistency throughout the county.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Ronnie McKinney echoed the call for consistency.
“I’d like to have a policy where everybody has to be the same,” McKinney said, citing issues in his precinct which occurred when a superintendent was allowed to take a county vehicle home but other employees were not.
Stoudt asked if a vote on the subject would be premature before a consistent, agreed-upon policy was created.
Interim Precinct 4 Commissioner Daryl Williams said such a policy could slow down response times for work crews in his precinct. Williams asked if exceptions could be made to the policy in certain cases.
McKinney replied he saw no problem with that but stated he wanted to see similar policies in place in all county departments.
“I think we need to look at people taking vehicles home because they have no right to be taking them home. Why? Because, where are they going to have to go when they get called back? Back to where they were. That doesn’t make sense. We’re just giving them a free trip out and back,” McKinney said before making a motion to approve the policy.
Stoudt seconded the motion for discussion.
“It sounds to me that we’re not clear at all on what the policy is going to be. It seems to me that we ought to take a break and get a policy that’s clear,” Stoudt said.
Boyd agreed some issues had been brought up which he had not considered and Williams said he would like to vote on the issue after an exception had been written into the policy allowing county employees to take vehicles home in instances of severe weather.
McKinney agreed to withdraw his motion but said he would bring the policy back to court for consideration once clear wording had been agreed upon.
“It’s coming back,” McKinney said. “I’m bullheaded and I don’t stop."