County approves agreement with city for drug task force
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

April 11, 2006 -- Hopkins County Commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to enter into a contract with the city to create a new county-wide drug interdiction unit, something Commissioner Danny Evans said the elected officials felt was necessary in the county.

Also, commissioners heard information on new computer software on Tuesday.

Commissioners were also scheduled to continue the final steps in selecting a new manager for Hopkins County Regional Civic Center, with hopes of having the new director on the job by the first of May.

The need for a county-wide drug enforcement agency became more pressing earlier this year when the Red River Valley Drug Task Force began closing its doors after state funding was discontinued. Both the city and county began looking for ways to continue drug interdiction efforts, resulting in the proposed Special Crimes Unit.

Last week, Sulphur Springs City Council members gave approval to entering into an agreement with Hopkins County for the SCU.

The Special Crimes Unit  will be strictly focused on drug enforcement, according to Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell.

The city has applied for a state grant to help fund the operation, something Commissioner Evans said would be necessary.

"We would still be interested in working with the city," Evans said. "We would have to sit down and figure out if we can do it and if the money is there to do it and how we can fund it."

In other business, commissioners gave tentative approval to the expenditure of more than $90,000 over the next three years to fund the purchase of a new AS400 computer software.

The software upgrade is needed, according to Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap, because of the growing volume of work being done in the county, primarily in the county clerk's and district clerk's offices.

Both clerks have complained to the commissioners court about the current system getting very slow.

The new system will also enable the county to utilize the Internet to enable people to pay fines and fees, and to initiate a program to make county records available online.

NetData representatives told the county that it would not be necessary to wait until the start of the new budget year on Oct. 1 to purchase the system. The representative told commissioners the new system could be brought on line in a matter of days and the first payment of $33,000 would not be due until November.

Before proceeding with the purchase, commissioners wanted to explore local funding options in hopes of getting an interest lower than the 5.5 percent proposed by NetData.

A Tuesday afternoon closed-door session of the court was on the docket to continue meeting with Civic Center Board representatives in the evaluation of applicants for the top job at the Civic Center.

Millsap said the long list of applicants had been trimmed to three top candidates. County officials said a final decision on the Civic Center position is anticipated within the next two weeks.

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