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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 30 years."


 

A novel way to hold down taxes.....Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright and Chief Deputy Craig Brady have been pulling a daylight robbery on homeowner associations all across Fort Bend County with the full complicity of the four county commissioners and the county judge.

You may wonder how they have been able to pull this highjacking in broad daylight for several years. I’m going to tell you how they did it.

Many wealthier subdivisions across Fort Bend County (and other counties as well) hire private security firms to provide extra protection for their residents because the sheriff department can’t seem to provide the coverage they feel is adequate. (Why this is the case is a mystery to me as so much of the county is now in city limits and thus covered by city cops.)

This private security can be provided approximately three ways: by private security firms, constable offices, or the sheriff’s department.

If a homeowner association contracts with a private security firm, they get private security guards, many with no training, patrolling their subdivision.

If a homeowner association contracts with a constable’s office, they get a law-enforcement trained officer who can carry a gun and who has no other duties except patrolling that particular subdivision.

If they contract with the sheriff’s department, they get a law-enforcement trained officer who can carry a gun and who has other duties outside that particular subdivision. When a sheriff’s officer is hired to provide service to a particular subdivision, he is also available to provide service to the rest of the region, meaning the subdivision doing the hiring and paying the money will not have the sheriff’s officer at all times.

One caveat: all of the contract money to the sheriff or constable goes into the county coffers. It is not personally pocketed by the officers except in the form of a regular paycheck.

But it is a source of political power. If the sheriff or constable has an officer on duty to help in the subdivision, provide security at crossings, protect your personal property, then you as a homeowner are going to be thankful to that person when voting time comes.

Another consideration: most contracts include not only money to hire deputies or constables, but to provide a car as well.

So in the case of the Fort Bend County Sheriff, the more deputies you can hire and cars you can buy with subdivision money the fewer you have to hire or buy with county money. Then you will have lots of money left over in your budget to buy take-home cars for all your buddies you have promoted. See how this works?

I have complained for years about the sheriff’s department having subdivision contracts. I believe it is unfair for a subdivision to have to pay extra for something for which they already pay taxes. With a constable’s office, it is a much different story. Each constable has way fewer employees as they are essentially charged with serving papers, although constitutionally, they are sworn Texas Peace Officers with full law enforcement and arrest powers. They can and should write traffic tickets when they see someone breaking the law.

But in Fort Bend County, each constable is budgeted for a few deputy constables because that is all commissioners court wants them to do--serve papers and warrants.

Therefore, when a constable gets a contract with a homeowners association he has to hire an extra deputy constable, or as many deputy constables as the contract will budget, to provide the level of protection the homeowners association thinks it needs or can afford. Then the subdivision is covered not only by its contract deputy constable, but the sheriff’s deputy who should be patrolling the area anyway as well.

So it would seem to me that a subdivision that contracts with a constable to provide extra security is getting its money’s worth because they are getting someone assigned exclusively to them.

While a subdivision which signs a contract with the sheriff’s department, is not even getting its tax money’s worth. It’s paying twice. First in the form of taxes to get the sheriff’s patrol and then in the form of homeowner association dues to get a sheriff’s deputy that covers the subdivision but has to answer other calls as well.

This means the sheriff’s department has part of its budget covered by the homeowner association contracts and it can spend its budget elsewhere, and the commissioners and county judge don’t have to increase the sheriff’s budget or taxes to provide police protection.

Quite a racket if you ask me.

It’s really nice for those rich subdivisions to simply throw extra money at the county on a regular basis. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Is there an election?.....I couldn’t tell if there was going to be an election until I drove over to Richmond and Rosenberg and saw all the political signs. The Sugar Land side of the Brazos River had hardly any sign, a result of strict sign ordinances in the various cities.

But finally this week some political signs have popped up on our side of the river, and I have to say that so far, the Democrats are winning. My favorite, the one that says “Proud of Texas, Ashamed of Rick Perry.” That’s for sure.

I’m convinced that the burning of all the voting machines in Harris County was political arson to dampen the turnout in Harris County where Democrat Bill White is expected to win and must in order to win the governor’s seat. I’ve told you before that some Republicans are just flat mean! Maybe not in Fort Bend where we expect our politicians to at least be polite and keep their dirty tricks to just good clean, political fun.

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Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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