Not everyone got what they wanted as the Cooke County Commissioners Court approved last-minute budget amendments for next year Monday morning.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Al Smith requested $150,000 be added to the “contingency” line item in his precinct’s budget, Precinct 4 Commissioner Virgil Hess requested $146,393 for his contingency fund and Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Hollowell requested his contingency fund be raised from $50,000 to $100,000.

An additional $91,000 was added to the Texoma Drug Task Force line item at the request of County Judge Bill Freeman, due to a shortfall in property forfeiture revenue. Auditor Shelly Saunders requested about $88,000 be taken from insurance to permanent improvement to pay for storm damage to the courthouse.

All the aforementioned budget amendments were approved unanimously and without much discussion.

But when Cooke County Sheriff Mike Compton requested additional funding to cover various, unexpected medical bills for inmates at the Cooke County Justice Center for what's left of this year, he was denied.

Compton, in an interview this morning, said his department was over $20,000. Compton said the auditor predicted $60,000 would have to be added to the Sheriff’s budget to cover emergency medical expenses to the end of the year.

“If y’all want to pay it, then pay it. Or we’ll be seeing the federal judge,” Compton said leaving the meeting on crutches after making his presentation.

Freeman moved Compton’s request to earlier in the meeting due to his broken leg, which requires the use of crutches.

Compton said by law he is required to take care of medical emergencies which occur at the jail. Several unforeseen incidents occurred, he noted.

“We had a baby born the 26th of August,” Compton said, noting a female inmate who gave birth while incarcerated.

He also noted an inmate who was sent to Vernon State Hospital for a mental competency examination before his trial which required $2,200 in prescriptions per doctor’s orders; a Bexar County man who developed a serious hernia and began to cough blood at the Cooke County Justice Center before his county’s sheriff’s department could extradite him, costing about $15,490; and a gang member who stabbed an ink pen in his eye, requiring Careflite transportation to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth and emergency surgery (the man hung himself when he returned to California, the sheriff said).

“We’re out of medical expense money,” the sheriff said. “We’ve squeezed these line items until they’re dripping out blood.”

Freeman said he would have Saunders look at each expense. He noted North Texas Medical Center is required to provide “indigent care” to those unable to pay, including inmates giving birth.

Saunders said the bills could be held until the end of the fiscal year, and the Commissioners may then declare a financial emergency and pay the medical bills from the fund balance.

“The law does not allow me to pay anything above appropriations,” Saunders said.

“Pinch every penny you’ve got,” Freeman said to Compton.

Compton assured Freeman he is attempting to control expenses.

Smith said he had a “moral problem” with holding on to the bills until the end of the fiscal year. He said private physicians are often called upon to perform emergency surgeries and operations, and it is unfair to not pay them.

“We’re obligated to pay him, and not just say we’re going to pay you 30 to 60 days later,” Smith said.

Smith added he was “mad as hell” to the point to where he felt like “wacking” Compton with his crutches. Smith said he was joking regarding the crutch remark.

“It hit a nerve when you said it that way,” Compton replied. “... I’m going to get my hat and head to the door, and let y’all argue about it.”

Freeman began to explain the budget process to Compton and the importance of preparing for unforeseen expenses.

“Judge, I don’t need a lecture in business administration, thank you very much,” he said. “... How on God’s green earth do you plan in February for an ol’ boy who’s going to stick a pen in his eye in August? ...”

Smith said exceeding the annual budget has been a “recurring problem” for the Sheriff’s Department.

In the interview this morning, Compton said, “We’ve worked very hard at keeping our expenses down to the minimum and right now the commissioners have cut our budget to the bare minimum. And then for him to tell me I have to watch my budget after its been cut to the bare bones minimum is insulting.”

The Commissioners later approved the budget in a 5-0 roll call vote. No members of the public spoke at a budget hearing held prior to the official vote.

The total budget for upcoming fiscal year is $20,005,362.

Saunders said the county’s income is projected to be $17,657,522, and the remainder of the budget would come from the fund balance. She said the budget is balanced.

She said all county employees received a 5 percent pay increase across the board.

A second hearing on the tax rate is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday in the Commissioners Courtroom in the Cooke County Courthouse.

The proposed tax rate is $0.4868 per every $100 valuation.

Freeman said the tax rate, if approved, would be lower than the current year’s by 1.6 cents.

The rollback rate — the rate the effective tax rate would have to exceed for the taxpayers to call for an election to reduce the effective tax rate — is $0.486814 per every $100 valuation.

“I think it’s a good budget,” Freeman said. “It costs a lot to run the county.”

No one was present to speak regarding the proposed tax rate.

In other business, the Commissioners approved the petition for off-premesis alcoholic beverage consumption sales in the city of Callisburg, and unanimously approved a Nov. 7 alcohol sales election.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Hollowell said by approving the petition and setting the election the Commissioners were not supporting the petition’s goal, but simply acknowledging that enough signatures were gathered and that the signatures were qualified, voters of Callisburg.

Billie Jean Knight, tax assessor/collector, confirmed the 27 signatures on the petition were legitimate.

A full report on the alcohol sales petition drive appeared in the Aug. 22 Register.

In other business, the Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the developer of Heritage Meadows Subdivision in Precinct 4 to vacate the planned housing community on FM 1201.

It was reported the developer had no interested parties offer to build houses in the subdivision.

There was plenty of interest in The Ranch subdivision at Lake Ray Roberts, as the Commissioners voted unanimously to resubdivide it for its phase 2, lots 54-57.

The Commissioners also unanimously approved the final plat and irrevocable letter of credit for Horseman’s Ranch Subdivision of Gainesville in Callisburg — which includes 17 lots for half-barn, half-residence houses.

Al Fichera, owner of the property, spent $191,000 to pave a portion of the road, which is north of the Callisburg High School.

In other business, the Commissioners unanimously appointed Richard Roth as Deputy Constable for Precinct 4 at the recommendation of Constable Tony Wier.

Wier said the precinct originally had four deputies in the budget, but he has since scaled back on expenses. The one deputy constable position was vacant and budgeted for, and was not recently created, he said.

The Commissioners unanimously voted to table an insurance settlement on Cooke County properties that were damaged due to the hail storm April 28.

According to discussion, the county received a check for $88,424.47, for damage to the library roof, air conditioner coils on the Department of Public Safety building, the roof of the Juvenile Justice Center and miscellaneous work on adult probation and the Cooke County Courthouse.

The insurance did not cover damage to the air conditioners at the former Cooke County Jail nor did it cover damage to the downtown EMS station.

The Commissioners approved 4-1 accepting a new rate for “hot mix, hot lay” road asphalt from J.R. Thompson Co. of Ardmore. The new rates increased a dollar per ton.

Commissioner Smith voted against deciding to accept the new rate, asking if there were some way for commissioners to “try some new things” by trying asphalt from various companies.

In other business the Commissioners voted unanimously to:

• Allow the Cooke County Appraisal District to use reserve funds to pay the balance of pictometry equipment and software (for mapping and property identification purposes).

• Approve the expenditure of $14,229 for a new “power pack” for the Cooke County Courthouse elevator, which is currently out of order, and the entering of a contract with United Elevator Service to repair the elevator.

• Approve a list of top bidders for used Precinct 4 equipment.

• Appoint Smith as the commissioner responsible for signing the Commissioners’ secretary’s paychecks.

• Approve adopting the NACO Discount Drug Program through Caremark Rx, Inc. that will enable the county to provide a discount prescription card to any resident in the county at no cost (see accompanying story).

• Allow Back Forty Water Company, at their expense, to make a two inch road bore on County Road 260 for about 25 feet west and 30 feet north at the corner of County Road 260, located in Precinct 2.

Ray Fletcher, county emergency management coordinator, recommended against lifting the countywide burn ban and recommended renewing it. He said the current ban expires Sept. 12.

Fletcher noted varying amounts of rainfall across the county but said it was not enough to relieve drought conditions.

“I’d suggest we not bet the farm on this rain,” Fletcher said.

In reports, Commissioner Hess said restoration work on the exterior of the Cooke County Courthouse should be complete by next week.

In public comments, Jack Schoppa of Saint Jo discussed various findings on wind generators and their cost efficiency. The Commissioners took no action during the meeting on a controversial FPL Energy plan to build wind generators on private properties in eastern Montague and western Cooke counties.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr[at]ntin.net