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Court approves extra dispatch position, new cars for SO

La Salle County commissioners voted unanimously in a special meeting Monday, November 15, to give Sheriff Anthony Zertuche an additional 911 dispatcher position at the Emergency Operations Center, acknowledging that the current staff of eight is working at beyond maximum capability.
Commissioners also agreed to purchase two vehicles for the sheriff’s office.
In a brief presentation to the court, Sheriff Zertuche said he has had a dispatcher vacancy since the first week of November and that a 24-hour schedule divided between the remaining crew members means demands for working six or seven days a week with no vacation time.
“The reason for creating this additional position is that it’s very difficult to keep the staff going when there’s someone missing,” the sheriff said. “It’s a lot of 911 calls that we deal with, and with only two dispatchers there, you can imagine how much work it is, if there’s only one.”
The sheriff’s office reported that it received over 5,800 calls on the 911 line between January and September this year. Calls for emergency medical service topped 1,200 for the same period.
“That’s a lot going on there,” the sheriff said. “We have to ensure that we function at full capacity. People are also calling the landline for information, and sometimes both lines ring at the same time. You can’t possibly answer both at once.
“We have to ensure the safety of all,” Zertuche said, “plus the people passing through the county. All those 911 calls go through there.”
“Many of your calls to the county jail also go through the dispatch office,” County Judge Joel Rodriguez said.
The La Salle County emergency dispatch office has been moved from its long-term headquarters in the county jail to the Larry Griffin Emergency Operations Center on Mars Drive, a multipurpose facility that includes classroom space and temporary bunking quarters for emergency responders in the event of a disaster. It presently functions as the communications hub for the county.
Chief dispatcher Sandi Ibarra told the court that the county dispatchers work 12-hour shifts, usually in a seven-day schedule, and that most have been denied their vacation time because of a staff shortage. Those who have taken time off, she said, may be called back to work after leaving their post.
The county judge said an assessment of the county dispatch office has resulted in a recommendation that an additional position be created at the base pay level. Budgeting for the position is in the pipeline for 2022, he added.
“The hardest part will be recruiting,” Rodriguez told the sheriff, noting that he believes Zertuche may have difficulty finding an appropriate candidate to fill the vacancy.
“Come and sit in at the dispatch office for thirty minutes, and you’ll see,” the sheriff said. “It’s a lot of work, multitasking.”
The motion to create the new dispatch position was made by Comm. Erasmo Ramirez Jr., supported by Comms. Raul Ayala, Jack Alba and Noel Niavez.
Commissioners also agreed unanimously to purchase two new police interceptor vehicles at a cost of approximately $92,000. The 2022 Dodge Chargers with V-8 engines will be used by the school resource officers, whose salaries are supported in part by Cotulla ISD and who divide their time between sheriff’s office patrol and security duty at the CISD campuses.
The high-powered police-package Dodge cars may also be used in law enforcement duties in other parts of the county, according to Undersheriff Rene Sobrevilla, who said he believes the vehicles will be suited for high-speed pursuits, among other functions.
“These aren’t just cars for school resource officers to go from one campus to another,” Sobrevilla said this week. “The officers are full-time deputies and perform law enforcement duties during the times that they are not at the schools. The V-8 engines in these cars will help do the job.”
The sheriff’s office has ordered other patrol vehicles for its officers and is expecting delivery forthwith. The new vehicles for the school resource officers, however, constitute an additional order.
“Pay for them in cash,” the county judge said of the Dodge Chargers. “We have the money in the bank. Then we don’t need to finance them.”
Funds for the purchase will be drawn from the county’s revenues at US Bank, according to the judge.

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