Ellis County Commissioners Court Receives JJAEP Program Update

The Ellis County Alternative Juvenile Justice Education Program has been operational since the last week of August. County commissioners received a comprehensive update on the youth initiative on Tuesday from two practicing lawyers.

Judge Cindy Ermatinger and Judge William Wallace, co-chairs of the Ellis County Juvenile Council, provided information to the investigating commissioners at the regular bi-weekly meeting of the Court of Commissioners.

Compound 3 commissioner Paul Perry requested the JJAEP report. Perry said the juvenile program is run by the Texas Legislature and is the responsibility of the county to budget for it.

Enrollment at JJAEP fluctuates from day to day, but Ellis County Juvenile Probation Manager Chelsea Smith said current enrollment is eight students, with a peak of 10 students since the launch of the program last August.

Ten school districts in Ellis County have agreements to use the county’s curriculum, but so far the only ones to do so are Waxahachie, Midlothian, Ferris and Palmer, Ermatinger said.

Wallace said JJAEP staffing is under constant review and that he and Ermatinger would present a budget adjustment proposal at the end of the school year if necessary.

Currently, the JJAEP is looking for an administrator, which Ermatinger has confirmed as the only vacant position in the program. The position is temporarily filled by a juvenile justice official, Ermatinger told the court. The director position is budgeted at an annual salary of $94,000 per year.

County and former JJAEP administrator Darrin Robinson parted ways in early January.

Based on Perry’s questions, Ermatinger said a compliance coordinator is on the job for a salary of $70,000 and a full-time teacher and a specialist teacher are on the job for $65,000 each. A part-time teacher’s aide is employed at $24,000 per year.

County Judge Todd Little said the pay scales were set by a committee made up of himself, Ermatinger and the county’s director of human resources, Theresa Taylor. Little said salaries and benefits were set within a range that would make the jobs competitive in the job market.

Ellis County surpassed the population of 180,000 in the 2020 U.S. Census, which Little says mandates the creation of a JJAEP.

“In a county our size, it’s not a voluntary thing,” Little said. “It’s something we had an exemption for in 2001. In fact, we were the only county in the state of Texas with an exemption.”

Little says the Juvenile Board meets monthly and the meetings are open to the public. Meetings are generally held every second or third Wednesday at noon and are held either in the multipurpose room or at the 378th Judicial District Court.

Other items

• The court discussed discrepancies for a 2.26-acre property on Brookside Road west of Interstate 35E in the offshore jurisdiction of Waxahachie. County Development Manager Alberto Mares said the lot failed to meet a total of eight requirements and outlined a list of possible conditions the commissioners could consider adding. Mares said his main concern was to set a precedent for future similar situations.

• Approved agenda included minutes of previous meetings; acceptance of various reports; paying Flair bills using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act; an accounting correction of juvenile justice probation costs; and budget transfers.

• The court recognized HOK Architectural Services and Architexas as the two most qualified architectural service providers following a request for qualification. In a separate vote, commissioners approved negotiations with the two firms for design and other related services for future Ellis County projects.

• A 12 month lease with Document Solutions for a photocopier for use at the Waxahachie Civic Center during jury duty was approved for $129 per month.

• An interlocal cooperative purchasing agreement with Kaufman County was approved.

• The court renewed an agreement with Martin Marietta for SuperSlurry for one year, and also approved concrete paving services with Muirhead Concrete Services, LLC for $79,448 or Road and Bridge Precinct 2.

• A contract with Everbridge, Inc. for the mass notification system was renewed until May 2025 for $14,355 per year.

• Payment of outstanding bills for the renovation of the Sheriff’s office following water damage caused by last winter’s storm has been approved. County Auditor Janet Martin said an insurance payment of $267,642 to the county is pending.

• Additional laptops have been approved for purchase for the Office of the Auditor for $5,693 using ARPA funds. Martin said laptops would allow staff quarantined at home due to COVID-19 to stay productive.

Commissioners approved a countywide 90-day burning ban, beginning Tuesday. Fire Marshal Tim Birdwell recommended a ban on burning due to drought conditions. A grass fire last week in the Alma area burned over 400 acres. Closed burning will still be permitted.

• Precinct 1 Commissioner Randy Stinson was reappointed to the North Central Texas Council of Governments 9-1-1 Board of Directors for a 2-year term until December 2023.

• The court appointed Dani Muckleroy to the Regional Advisory Committee on Aging for the NCTCOG Regional Agency on Aging.

Comments are closed.