Brown County Commissioners approved a plan Monday for the Brown County Court to have the services one day a week of court reporter Nanell Mooney, who currently works in the the Brown County Court at Law.
The plan is contingent on finding the money in the current budget to raise Mooney’s salary by $15,000 a year — up from her current salary of $58,650 — for taking on duties in the county court.
Previously, a court reporter worked part time in the county court when Ray West was county judge and was paid $25,000 a year with no benefits, commissioners were told.
Commissioners agreed to the plan after Court at Law Judge Sam Moss and County Judge Paul Lilly addressed commissioners. Moss asked for commissioners to approve an additional $15,000 to $20,000 for Mooney.
Lilly said his court is required by state statute and the state constitution to have a court reporter. Moss “came up with a dynamic idea to help the county save money,” Lilly told commissioners. “ … “I think it’s a great idea. It’s a cost-savings. We’ll just have to make sure we get our scheduling correct and that there’s no conflict.”
Moss said he and Lilly talked after Lilly won the March primary election about “ideas going forward, knowing there were going to be some changes with who could hear what.” Juvenile cases and most probate cases have moved from the county court to Moss’ court, Moss said.
The county court will be left with “essentially theft by checks and basic Class C misdemeanors,” Moss told commissioners. “That docket is very limited, especially at this point.”
Moss said he, Lilly and District Judge Steve Ellis have talked about ways to utilize the three courts better. Lilly wants to hear misdemeanor cases that are currently filed in Moss’ court, Moss told commissioners.
“And he can hear them,” Moss said. “There’s nothing to prevent him from hearing them except that he has to have to a reporter, by law, to hear them. He doesn’t have that. Doesn’t have a budget for it.”
Court reporters in other counties are being paid $70,000 to $124,000 a year plus benefits, Moss said.
Moss has asked commissioners yearly for a raise for Mooney because Mooney is “substantially underpaid,” Moss told commissioners.
Commissioner Gary Worley asked if Moss’ proposal mean county court will be in session one day a week.
“No. I’ll just need a reporter one day a week,” Lilly said.
“He’ll basically squeeze everything that needs a record into that day,” Moss added.
Moss also said he will be able to schedule court activities that don’t require a record on days that Mooney is working in the county court.
Moss said he hopes to send misdemeanors from his court to Lilly’s court and to have some felony cases sent from district court to Moss’ court. “That’s what he and I are in discussions about to help their docket,” Moss said, referring to Ellis. “We don’t all that worked out yet.”
Commissioners noted that it will be necessary to find the extra money to pay Mooney in the budget. As an option, Moss noted that there are funds left over from a grant that previously funded a DWI docket in then-Court at Law Frank Griffin’s court.
In other business, commissioners:
• Heard Lilly and Brown County Attorney Shane Britton say Britton is looking to hire an assistant county attorney for a salary of $55,000 to $60,000. The county has budgeted $45,000 for an assistant county attorney’s salary, but Britton has been unable to hire anyone for that amount, commissioners were told.
Commissioners have not spent any money on an assistant county attorney since putting the money in the 2018-’19 budget, Lilly told commissioners.
• Heard county grants coordinator Bob Contreras say he has applied for a $213,000 state grant to repair and upgrade the low water crossing on CR 369 at Red Hole Creek.
Brown County will be expected to match 25 percent of the grant, or $53,250, and Contreras said the cost can be provided in-kind, with county labor, transportation or materials.
Commissioner Wayne Shaw and Precinct 3 road supervisor Jeff Mobley contributed significantly to preparing the grant for submission on short notice, Contreras told commissioners.
• Tabled action to approve a lease with TruCore at the Brown County Juvenile Justice Center.
• Heard a presentation from extension agent Courtney Parrott on the Healthy County Program.
• Heard Sheriff Vance Hill say it will be necessary to get records removed from the Houston Street facility that previously housed the sheriff’s office and jail. The building has been sold and will be demolished, Hill said.
• Heard a presentation from Dam Volunteer Fire Chief Chris Weber on the Central Texas Wildfire Academy, which will be Feb. 8-17 at Camp Bowie.
The class will include a training burn of 500 to 800 acres. Sixty to 80 students will attend the class, with 100 to 120 staff members.
• Heard emergency management coordinator David Creed report that a field exercise will be conducted at Gordon Wood Stadium Thursday and managed from the Emergency Operations Center.