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County Court Approves Change in Veterans Service Officer, Taser Purchase
Wednesday, July 22, 2009 • Posted July 22, 2009

Lawrence Spell and Michael Shanley appeared before the July 13 meeting of the Mason County Commissioners' Court to request the removal of the current Veterans Service Officer for the county, Mr. Michael Lopez. Mr. Spell and Mr. Shanley explained to the Court that there had been numerous complaints from veterans in Mason County regarding the timeliness and quality of service that had been receiving from Mr. Lopez.

Mr. Spell (representing the VFW) and Mr. Shanley (representing the American Legion) told the Court that their two groups were joining together to find a way to better serve Mason County veterans. They suggested that Mason County utilize the service officer from Gillespie County until Mr. Spell finishes the certification that will enable him to serve in that role in Mason County. Mason County veterans may contact either of the two gentlemen who will provide them with information on contacting the appropriate individuals.

The Court also once again heard from Sheriff Buster Nixon regarding the salary for officer Lewis Herrington. Mr. Herrington was hired at the stated salary level for incoming officers with his level of experience, which is $12 per hour. Sheriff Nixon had earlier requested that the Court allow his office to pay Officer Herrington more since his experience level was much higher than most incoming officers would be able to offer.

Commissioner Eldon Kothmann stated that the county had adopted a salary schedule so that salaries would not be arbitrarily assigned. He noted that Mr. Herrington would be eligible for a raise in the near future and that would be the time to consider adjusting the salary.

Sheriff Nixon told the Court that the position was budgeted at $12.79 per hour, as that was what the person formerly in that position had been making when they left. He asked the Court to raise Mr. Herrington to that level.

Commissioner Kothmann replied that, while that was the amount budgeted, that did not mean that it was the salary called for in the county's salary schedule, and again advised against making the adjustment at this time.

Commissioner Wayne Hofmann told the Court that he felt the county was fortunate to have someone of Officer Herrington's caliber in their employ and moved to raise his salary to $12.79 per hour. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Stanley Toeppich.

Judge Jerry Bearden called for a voice vote and reported a 3-2 vote for the motion, with Commissioner Kothmann and Judge Bearden being the no votes.

In other business, Sheriff Buster Nixon informed the Court that his office was purchasing Tasers for use by the officers. He explained that recent incidents involving an individual under the influence of drugs had demonstrated that pepper spray, the usual choice for subduing suspects, was ineffective on someone who was under the influence of many narcotics. He further explained that Tasers had been proven effective, both in use and as a viable threat to suspects.

The Tasers will cost approximately $800 each and the Sheriff's office will purchase four or five. The officers will be trained in the proper use of the devices before they are deployed for routine use by the department.

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