Hays County Sheriff Tommy Ratliff speaking Tuesday to the Hays County Commissioners Court. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Hays County officials said the City of Buda is receiving municipal-level police services from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) without paying the $60,000 per month fee the county had charged from July 2009 until April.
Buda was under contract with the the county for a dedicated police force, known as the Buda patrol, until the city decided to not renew the pact after a falling out between city officials and Sheriff Tommy Ratliff helped motivate the city to form its own police department. The city let the contract expire in April. The contract provided Buda with a commander, eight dedicated sheriff’s deputies and associated equipment for $60,339.49 per month.
Buda first entered into the contract in July 2007 to fill the need for a police force after crime increased with the openings of several retailers in the city. The deal was amended in July 2009 to provide additional deputies at additional cost.
Hays County Sheriff Tommy Ratliff told county commissioners Tuesday that he has agreed to provide eight dedicated deputes to Buda until January 1 or earlier, depending on how soon Buda can create its own police force.
“Transitionally, we’re providing the same level of service that (Buda residents) were getting when they were paying for it,” said Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle). “That’s just an issue for us on the financial side. We love Buda more than you can imagine — I go back, way back, there — but there is, as well as the law enforcement (side), there is a financial side of it. It’s good to transition. Just, I just want to remind my friends in Buda they have a good deal right now.”
Bo Kidd, chief of Buda’s embryonic police department and former captain of the county’s Buda patrol, said he expects to have the city’s police force ready by Oct. 1. Kidd denied that there are eight sheriff’s deputies assigned to his city.
“(Sheriff’s deputies) are picking up calls for service just as they did prior to the contract, but they’re not dedicated to the city,” Kidd said. “They’re not enforcing city ordinances or anything like that.”
Buda City Manger Kenneth Williams said the county is providing the same level of service pursuant to the Buda patrol contract, though free of charge.
After Ratliff demoted and reassigned Kidd in July 2009, Buda councilmembers voted on Aug. 4, 2009 to disband the Buda patrol within a year. The contract creating the police force expired in April, the last payment having been made in March.
“As soon as (Buda police) go online, we can pull our people and spread them out in the county,” Ratliff said. “It’ll be in the county’s best interest to get them out there and have a lot better coverage.”
Ratliff said he would like to see faster response times to calls for service around the county. More deputies available to respond to calls for service contribute to faster response times.
At Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting Tuesday, Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-Wimberley) and Barton expressed displeasure with the idea of providing municipal-level services to Buda free of charge until January. Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) expressed mild concern and Hays County Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos) expressed surprise.
“So, to get back into the good graces with Buda we’ve given up six to eight months of free labor?” Conley said.
Conley asked Barton, who represents Buda, what he planned to do about the situation.
Barton said the deployment of deputies is Ratliff’s responsibility and prerogative, though Barton said he did take part in early discussions with Buda about the status of the law enforcement contract. After Buda councilmembers voted last summer to let the contract expire, Barton and Conley expressed the desire that the agreement be salvaged.
“I will note that the court started off with a member of the court involved in those negotiations, and somewhere along the line, the negotiations became only between the sheriff’s department and the city,” Barton said. “I think, perhaps, while there was a member of the court in those negotiations, the talk was about how Buda would extend the contract to pay us, and, once it became just a conversation between the city and the sheriff’s office, this contract’s been extended now for six, to eight, to nine months with the county not receiving any revenue.”
Kidd and Buda City Manager Kenneth Williams said the new Buda police department will cost about $700,000.
“We’ll have seven officers, one detective, an administration person, and myself, is what we’re starting with,” Kidd said. “And with that, we should be able to provide 24 hour coverage. And not just uniform services, but investigative as well.”
Ratliff is running for election to the sheriff’s office as a Democrat in November against Republican challenger Gary Cutler. County commissioners named Ratliff as sheriff in December 2008 after the sudden death earlier that month of Sheriff Allen Bridges, who had just been re-elected in November 2008.
“They’ve (Buda residents) have got an excellent police chief,” Cutler said. “Bo Kidd is an excellent officer and an excellent leader. In due time, with his leadership, they’ll have a really good department there. They’ve got a good one now but it’ll take some time during this transition for him to build it where he wants it.”
Cutler said the sheriff’s office should provide the same level of law enforcement service to Buda out-of-contract until the city’s police department can take the reigns from the county.
Ratliff removed Kidd as captain of the Buda patrol last summer after a conflict between the two regarding a purchase of police equipment. Kidd had asked for approval from commissioners to make the purchase, but Barton removed the request from the court agenda after a protest from Ratliff. Kidd said the Buda patrol had enough money in its budget for the equipment, but Ratliff said such decisions should be made by the sheriff.Email | Print