New Additions to Gray County Sheriff’s Office from the County Commissioners

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The Gray County Commissioner’s Court met Friday the 14th for a regularly scheduled meeting. Commissioner Arrington was absent from the meeting. The meeting opening with Commissioner Baggerman giving an invocation to the court. Among the items first discussed was item 1, ‘Pay Bills as Approved by the County Auditor’ with a expenditure of ARPA funds in the amount of $4,600 that was approved by Comm. Haley and Comm. Baggerman. Item 2, ‘Consider Line-Item Transfers’ were small charges to cover middle of the year balancing negatives in accounts of the county, approved by Comm. Baggerman and Comm. Hudson. Item 3, ‘Consider Budget Amendments’ with the only amendments being the transfer between precincts of a Volvo truck and the constable fund, both discussed in previous meetings, approved by Comm. Hudson and Comm. Baggerman. ‘Accept County Clerk’s Report’ item 4 was approved by Comm. Hudson and Comm. Haley.

Item 5, ‘Consider Accepting the September 30, 2022 Audit Report for Gray County’ was discussed with the auditor present. In a presentation by the auditor, his professional opinion was that the county was in good health and business was being taken care of in an appropriate manner. The matter was accepted and approved by Comm. Haley and Comm. Baggerman. Item 6, ‘Consider Purchase of Flight Drone for the Gray County Sheriff’s Department’ brought a lot to be discussed. Both Sgt. Ray of DPS and Lieutenant Skinner of GCSO were present. Ray and the DPS have drones to assist in many different capacities, showing their support for this advancement and offer advice to the county. The sheriff’s office was seeking a drone with similar abilities to the DPS, such as a rapid charge battery, interchangeable batteries, high tech control console and more. The option presented included all of those, along with portability, smart tracking, quick deploy, no calibration needed, and a distance of 15 kilometers. The DPS and PPD offices have drones of this caliber already, leaving the GCSO the only agency in Gray County without one.

“The biggest benefit of having one of these would be for a search and rescue,” Skinner said. “I don’t know much about drones but I know the ability they have to help out on-site in situations that aren’t cut and dry.”

Sgt. Ray gave a recommendation of the 30T drone to Skinner due to the fact the Governor has banned any software from China. The DPS runs a Texas made software on their drones, and the drone recommended would do the same. The drone has the ability to share a link that allows live viewing of what the drone is seeing.

“It’s an additional $1,000 a year for those features,” Ray said. “But I highly recommend it for the value of what the drone can offer. I recommend the 30T model.”

Judge Porter raised the question of how often the sheriff’s office is in a situation of a search and rescue or vehicle pursuit when the perpetrator exits and runs off from officers.

“There are too many to count,” Skinner said. “A lot of the focus we’d have the drone on would be the interstate.”

The sheriff’s office plans to send officers to get properly trained in the use and control of a drone. Sending officers to be on night shift and day shift with the training to operate the drone. DPS officers had to take an FAA test to receive a pilots license to operate the drones, and the GCSO officers will be required to do the same.

“If I was asking for this, I would want a good drone, but I wouldn’t want the most expensive,” Comm. Hudson said. “We don’t know how much we’ll use this. We have one in the county that the GCSO could use. I recommend we get a less expensive option to use and learn with, until we build up a program where we use these more, then we make the upgrade to better drones from the original ones we get. Starting out, sure we want nice equipment, but how much are we going to use this in the beginning.”

Judge Porter is in favor of getting a good quality drone and has approached Skinner about building the program to better equip officers on the use of drones.

“I myself am in favor of getting a drone and using the Texas company DroneSense technology, with the economical friendly drone to begin with,” Comm. Hudson said. “Once we see how much we use it, then we can go back and upgrade our drone program.”

The matter was approved for the purchases of the Maverick 3T, with the ability to use DroneSense software. Approved by Comm. Hudson and Comm. Haley in the amount of $8,000 out of ARPA Funds.

Item 7, ‘Consider Contract with Idemia LiveScan for the Gray County Jail’, Gracie Skinner, who’s over the jail was present to the court, the agenda item was in a previous meeting but tabled due to no jail personal in attendance. Idemia LiveScan is a previous feature the jail had, but hasn’t had since 2019. Since losing the LiveScan everything has been done manually after a change in software, the current LiveScan is outdated and doesn’t work as needed. The LiveScan is used for digital fingerprints in the jail, helping to identify people who falsley identify or refuse to ID. LiveScan uses a national scan database to certify who someone is. The program is used daily, the current software was last updated in 2008. This wouldn’t be a new implementation, but rather an upgrade to the current system with an up to date version. The upgrade would be a $18,000 device, $1,600 for the camera and an additional $1,100 for the needed printer and ink. A recurring annual of cost of $2,500 would become due after the first year was up. The jail does not have a budget for the annual cost it would require to maintain the system, the item was postponed until October, after the jail sets its’ budget for the next fiscal year and is able to find the funds for the annual upkeep charge that is to come with this upgrade.

Item 8, ‘Consider Airport Hanger Lease Transfer from Stephen Martin to Darrell Downs’, Downs owns hanger 8 and hasn’t paid taxes since 2015 on the property. The transfer was denied until the back taxes are paid. The court approved Item 9, ‘Consider Extending County Burn Ban’ for another term. Item 10, ‘Consider Replacing an Employee in the Tax Assessor and Collector’s Office’ was approved. Item 11, ‘Accept CLE from Comm. Hudson’ was approved.

The next County Commissioner meeting is set to be held on Monday, May 1st in the second floor courtroom starting at 9.

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