By Alicia Lacy
The Cove Herald
Monday’s Coryell County Commissioners Court meeting was a success in the eyes of the sheriff’s department.
The approval of the 2009 budget included the addition of five new personnel and a salary increase.
Coryell County Sheriff Johnny Burks’ original proposal in July asked for $700,000 and six new positions.
The new positions include a booking supervisor in the jail, an additional dispatch position, two patrol deputy positions and a criminal investigator position.
The additional support to the sheriff’s department will aid the sheriff who’s duties include criminal investigation, traffic enforcement, operation of the county jail, warrant and civil processes and the officers who answer calls throughout the county.
“We would like more,” Chief Deputy Joe Blakely II said, adding that with 1000 square miles to patrol and 10 patrol officers, things have been difficult.
In addition to the new positions, starting salaries in the department are being bumped from approximately $25,500 for a deputy and $22,500 for a jailer to about $30,000 and $25,000 respectively.
Burks’ priority, since he began at the department, has been to get additional support and more competitive salaries for the officers.
More patrol officers means better coverage and a better opportunity to provide residents with a safer area and quicker response time, the sheriff said.
“If we get a call in Oglesby and a call in Evant, which is a 55 mile drive, it takes time,” Blakely said.
Blakely later added the volume of calls the department receives has increased. The department received about 700 calls last month. “And with only 10 officers we stay busy.”
The officers answer all calls regardless of how major or minor, and with calls involving violence two officers are sent.
“That’s what we’re here for, everyone’s call is number one” Blakely said.
With every call, a report and follow-up is required, which is demanding on the patrol officers.
According to Blakely, calls made to law enforcement are going up everywhere.
The department competes with area law enforcement agencies such as the Texas Department of Corrections and nearby Fort Hood’s civilian police and counties in similar size for “good officers.”
“We can’t meet their [pay] standards, but we can be competitive,” Blakely added.
Another part of the budget that has risen significantly was a 30 percent increase to support fuel costs, which will be used by the sheriff’s department and the road and bridge department.
“Any [additional positions] we get is great,” Blakely said.
Last year, two positions were added to the department.