Although the Texas County and District Retirement System only requires that retirees be unemployed for one calendar month before returning to work, Kaufman County currently requires that retires be out of work for a full six calendar months. However, this requirement may soon be reduced thanks to a circumstance brought to county commissioners by Precinct 3 Constable Keith Stephens.
“In law enforcement, I’ve never really cared for part-time employement,” Stephens said during last week’s meeting of the Kaufman County Commissioners Court. “You usually either get somebody who is retired or you get somebody straight out of an academy that is looking to get his foot in the door to get a full-time position somewhere.”
Despite his reservations about part-time employment, though, recent developments have put Stephens in a bit of a bind. After one of his officers, Walter Dykes, retired in January, another of his officers is retiring now due to health concerns. In order to help fill the unexpected hole in the police force for precinct 3, the Dykes has offered to come out of retirement briefly to work part time until Stephens is able to find a more long-term replacement. However, thanks to current county policy, he is barred from returning to work until July.
According to Precinct 1 commissioner Mike Hunt, this policy was put in place to protect the county from those looking to retire early in order to capture retirement monies only to return to the workforce mere weeks later to continue earning a paycheck.
“I think we just need to leave it at six months,” Hunt said. “If we make it any shorter, the hook is there.”
Kaufman County Judge Hal Richards inquired whether the commissioners court could exempt retirees based on specific cases, but Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Lundberg advised against doing so.
“Like an HR policy, I would recommend that it just be applied the same across the board,” Lundberg said.
She also recommended that all retiring employees be required to do an exit interview to help protect the county if the commissioners decide to shorten the amount of time between an employees retirement and eligibility for rehire.
The commissioners are slated to make a ruling on the retirement policy this week.
During last week’s meeting, the commissioners court also discussed several potential maintenance projects regarding the exterior of county buildings. Judge Richards anticipates that the county will conduct preventative maintenance on the roof of the Kaufman County courthouse this year. He also noted the need for the Courthouse Annex building to be repainted.
“For Heaven’s sakes, this building desperately needs to be repainted,” Richards said.
Based on estimates received, a full repainting of the exterior of the annex building would cost $16,000 while a repainting of the public defenders building would cost $4,000 and a repainting of the development services building would cost $6,000.
Richards also noted the need for the windows of the annex building to be replaced. Although the current windows appear to be in need of significant cleaning, they are actually cleaned regularly. The root of their cloudy appearance is the release of gasses within their double paned exteriors caused by damage the windows have sustained from gravel and rocks being flung into them by passing vehicles, as well as other wear and tear that accompanies age. The county is working on acquiring an estimate regarding the replacement of the windows as well as the construction of a barrier between the windows and the road, similar to the one in place at the county courthouse, to protect them from damage.
Judge Richards also recently visited the regional animal shelter in Keller as part of a tour arranged by Kaufman Assistant City Manager Mike Holder in order to ascertain whether Kaufman County would be interested in beginning a similar facility.
Richards and Holder were joined on the tour by Pam Corder representing Kaufman County, Glen Caldwell from Terrell and two representatives from Crandall. Mabank has also expressed interest in being included, however no representatives form the town attended the tour.
The Keller shelter is owned by the City of Keller, but services three cities.
“It is a very impressive arrangement,” Richards said. “I have the agreement that they operate under. I have operating budgets from that operation and the operating budget from the city of Terrell’s animal shelter.
“This is not something for immediate attention. It’s a way forward for us, I think, and for some of the cities. As we grow, we’re going to have more animals to deal with in the county and I think we’re spending right around $110,000 right now and that number’s only going to grow.”
During the meeting, the commissioners also, approved a proclamation to proclaim April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, discussed a request received for a variance of lot size for a three-home subdivision to build in Precinct 3, discussed appointing a commissioners court representative to participate in the Children’s Center director hiring process, accepted a donation of road materials to assist with road improvements and maintenance of County Road 261, discussed annual proposals and contracts for various maintenance and service contracts, and approved payroll and benefits, line items transfers and claims for payment. The commissioners also briefly entered into executive session to discuss the Information Technology Director position, but made no action upon returning.