New warden: Staffing a concern at Wallace Unit
Sergio Perez knew he would face some challenges when he accepted the position of the Wallace Unit. Foremost among those challenges is bolstering the number of correctional officers on staff.
Perez informed members of the Mitchell County Commissioners Court on Monday he was actively working to increase the number of guards in various ways, and that he was hoping to create an “academy” in the community to help train and boost local job opportunities.
“Our biggest problem is staff right now,” said Perez, who took over as warden about three weeks ago. “We just aren’t getting the new generation of correctional officers that we need. It is something we are working on, but I’m not sure how much more we can sustain and be safe. We need correctional officers.”
Perez said the Wallace Unit was operating at about 43 percent of its normal staffing requirements. Currently, the prison served 1,069 offenders.
Despite the employee shortage, Perez said prison officials will remain committed to helping in the county whenever possible.
“We are fully committed to the community,” he said. “As soon as my leadership tells me we are good to go, we will get out there.”
Perez also informed commissioners that the state fire marshall was expected to visit the idle Dick Ware Unit this week for inspections. Although the state has not announced any plans to re-open the Ware Unit, Perez said the fire marshall has been touring idle facilities to ensure they meet safety standards.
“There are no plans, at this point, to open up the Ware Unit,” Perez said. “The main focus for the agency is to get our staffing (numbers) up.”
In other business, commissioners authorized Mitchell County Clerk Carla Kern to purchase a cargo trailer for the moving and storage of the county’s new election machines. The trailer will enable election officials to move the heavy ballot-counting machinery to its respective sites. The cost of the trailer was not to exceed $5,000.
Commissioners also approved the submission of a new road boring permit. The permit will be needed for any entity that wished to drill small holes under roadways for the installation of wires and cables. A larger oil pipeline permit is required for larger pipes and related installation.
The county commissioners authorized the hire of Dick Harris, an Abilene-based bankruptcy attorney, to represent the county’s interest in the recent bankruptcy proceedings regarding Lorin Engineering.
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