Grant gets county OK

Howard County commissioners gave the go-ahead Monday to accept a joint block grant that could help fund improvements for both the Howard County Sheriff's Office and Big Spring Police Department.The funding — expected to total approximately $12,000 — is aimed at providing technical equipment for law enforcement agencies, according to Sheriff Stan Parker.“The split on this grant goes strictly by the crime statistics, so the police department will get about 90 percent and the sheriff's department will get 10 percent, which equates out to about $1,100,” Parker said. “It's not a lot of money, but in these times, every dollar counts.”Parker said he is working with BSPD officials to decide how the funds will be used.“Right now we're considering using it for the new joint law enforcement center,” Parker said. “This grant has to be used for technology and the construction of the center isn't necessarily all-inclusive, so there are things we're going to need there. We're working with the police department to make sure we use the funding where it's needed the most.”The law enforcement project, a joint venture between the county and the city, will eventually house both the Howard County Sheriff's Office and the Big Spring Police Department on the same site as the county's detention center, located on W. Highway 80.County Judge Mark Barr said he's pleased to see the law enforcement agencies working to make the most of the grant money.“The overall amount of the grant isn't very much when you look at the budgets of either law enforcement agency,” Barr said. “However, when spent right, that money can have a tremendous impact on their ability to serve the community, and that's what matters most.”Also during Monday's meeting, commissioners met with Justice of the Peace Quail Dobbs in an executive session to discuss personnel matters.Dobbs declined to comment on the nature of the meeting, saying only the matter was personal. Barr also declined to discuss the details of the meeting. No action was taken as a result of the executive session.Commissioners also met with County Auditor Jackie Olson, holding a budget work session to discuss the upcoming fiscal plan. The court met with several department heads during the workshop, which Barr described as the beginning of the budgetary process.“Things are looking pretty good for the coming year. It's looking like our mineral values will likely go up, lowering the effective tax rate,” Barr said. “That's good news for everyone.”Barr said one concern he and the rest of the court has going into this year's budget process is the county's existing pay scale and how it's applied to the various departments.“We have a bit of a problem with the pay scale the way it is,” Barr said. “Each department has their own way of doing things and it can really get confusing. One of the things we want to look at this year is trying to revamp the pay scale system.“Bear in mind, this isn't a reason for county employees to get scared. We're not planning to cut anyone's pay as a result of this. Right now, we're not even sure what we can or can't do to try to fix this, so we're still just looking at the issue.”