All county-owned vehicles will be required to stay within Gonzales County unless they are in use for official business after the Gonzales County Commissioners Court voted to adopt a new policy at their Monday, Sept. 25 meeting.
Work vehicles used by employees who live out of the county must be parked in a secure area in Gonzales County whenever their shift ends once the new policy goes into effect Oct. 1. That includes all Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office deputies as well as County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Harless, who lives in neighboring Guadalupe County.
It follows discussion earlier in the month as several commissioners have been vocal about not wanting to see county assets being taken out of Gonzales County. Ten GCSO patrol vehicles were being driven out of the county, including one that was being driven to a home between Marion and New Braunfels.
During Monday’s meeting, Sheriff Keith Schmidt presented a new policy he had drafted for his department that would go into effect Oct. 1 and would prohibit taking home vehicles outside Gonzales County.
“Historically, we’ve allowed our deputies to take them home, but starting Oct. 1, we're no longer going to allow them to take them out of county,” Schmidt said. “If you look at item number 7, off-duty parking, effective Oct. 1 we will no longer allow our vehicles to be parked outside of the county.
“If I have a deputy that lives somewhere near Seguin, he'll have to leave it somewhere in Gonzales County. He can either leave it at the Sheriff’s Office or we’ve talked to the Belmont fire chief and he will allow us to park them at the Belmont Fire Department. Our deputy that lives over near Flatonia will be parking that one at the Waelder PD. No take-home vehicles will be allowed to go outside the county.”
Schmidt said he asked for an Oct. 1 rollout date because they are making sure the facilities where cars will be parked will be secure.
“Belmont Fire has offered (space) but we really want to maybe put up a camera or something there,” said Schmidt, who indicated other cars may be parked at the Nixon Police Department for those living south of Gonzales County.
Harless asked commissioners for their guidance regarding his situation, especially as he has been seeing a number of after-hours calls requiring him to go to fires and other emergencies in Gonzales County.
“I can tell you I’m averaging about one return trip after hours to Gonzales County, usually in the middle of the night, sometimes on the weekends,” Harless said. “I would say about 60 to 70 percent of my calls on-call after hours is the interstate or will be Waelder. The sheriff can obviously set his policy, but since I am appointed by the court, I need some guidance.”
“Jimmy’s deal is completely different from mine,” Schmidt added. “He’s on call and you never know when he’s going to get a fire or they’re going to have something he’s going to have to roll to. Every one of his are emergencies, so I see his being a little different than mine.”
County Judge Pat Davis said he thought that if the county was going to put a policy into effect, it should be “the same all the way around.”
“I know we’ve got to respond to stuff and we still respond but you get there when you get there,” Davis said. “I’ve just had a lot of calls and I know you've had a bunch of calls, too about this. Maybe we can fade the heat from what it is on some of these calls we’ve gotten.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin La Fleur said he believes there shouldn’t be a problem with Harless parking his truck in Belmont as well as that would be within 15-20 miles of Seguin, where Harless lives.