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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.


She’s a better man than I am

I read, with interest, Bev’s Burner last week. It seems BK was able to figure out how many detectives there are with take home cars at the Sheriff’s Office. Well, she’s a better man than I am.

When I was trying to find out how many people, not just sheriff’s personnel, there were with take home cars—well, let’s just say no one in the county seems to know for sure—or so they say.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Tom Stavinoha, who I worked wonderfully with until last week, was apparently strutting his stuff with deputies.

Apparently he was saying he was going to prove me wrong on the waste of gasoline by allowing so many take home cars. He was, according to sources, going to prove I was a liar.

I heard it through the coffee-shop grapevine and called Tom. I have a thing about being called a liar. I will accept any other form of derogatory slams, but that is one I will really get seriously adverse feelings about and totally not accept.

No, he wasn’t trying to make me out a liar he was only “investigating the cost to the county and you said an employee was spending $700 for commuting.”

Well, duh, I said the county employee WITHOUT a take home car said he was spending $700 a month commuting to his out of county home.

Stavinoha said that couldn’t be possible that any county employee was taking a county vehicle out of county because commissioners forbid county employees with take home cars from taking those vehicles out of county.

They did, but not every elected official agreed to adhere to that.

Sheriff Milton Wright snubbed his nose at that rule. When the commissioners were asked about that several years ago, they quickly noted that department heads had to adhere to the rule, but they had no control, other than the budget, of elected officials who chose not to adhere to the policy.

Well, since I haven’t seen any cuts in the sheriff’s vehicle expenditures, they must not be doing too well at that little effort.

Now, back to the stuff that Stavinoha had thus far found out in his “investigation.” Seems he found that the average take home car costs $8.00 per day in extra gasoline per employee—his determination.

How did he come up with that? He said he talked to three department heads/elected officials and they estimated each employee drove an average of 15 miles or 30 miles per day, which was “only about $8.00 extra dollars.”

Oky, dokey. What about the car payments, insurance, oil changes, tires, tune-ups etc. these folks don’t have to make? The county purchases the vehicle/insurance and county maintenance takes care of the rest. I believe we pay a huge contingent of county maintenance workers to do this job.

And, what about the employees who are not required to live in Fort Bend County? Contrary to what Stavinoha so innocently believes, there are some. I personally know of two (maybe three) who live in Wharton County. Last time I checked the city of Wharton was a tad further than any 15 miles. Another Star employee knows of two people who live in College Station.

And, Stavinoha hadn’t been able to find out exactly how many take home cars were allocated by the sheriff for his administration staff; supervisors; his own little personal human resources division; detectives; and academy personnel.

There really should be some data base that has this information. Probably is, sort of. County officials say a department head or elected official has to turn in a vehicle report so they can determine what the county owns and who has it.

However, marking whether the vehicle is a take home is up to that official. And, when I was putting together the gas story week before last, I was told that this year’s total on the cars wouldn’t be ready for another 30 days.

I hate to harp on something like this but dad-gum-it everyone is hurting. The gas prices are rising daily and we are all having to adjust our lifestyles to compensate for soaring fuel; higher groceries and increases in virtually anything and everything tied to oil.

Now that the farmers are experiencing drought or flooding, there is a strong likelihood those prices at the store are going to go out of sight.

The county officials say that asphalt and steel are drastically higher than a year ago. Have you seen all of the roads being worked on and all of the new construction the county is doing?

Two years ago I actually supported take home cars for a number of sheriff’s employees. Gas was cheaper and they were on call, so I thought it was alright.

Since that time, gas has more than doubled and the county has added hundreds of employees, many of whom might be driving their “county ride” to and from work.

So, is it too much to ask that our tax dollars are budgeted in the same way our personal expenditures are?

I think not.


Contact skinnerc1@tconline.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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   Last Update:  August 06, 2008