Court gives support to Ellis County CAC

Commissioners OK additional $20K in funding on top of annual $50K payment

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Ellis County Children's Advocacy Center at 425 Ross Street in Waxahachie.

The Ellis County Child Advocacy Center received a belated Christmas gift from county commissioners in Tuesday’s first regular meeting of 2022, as the court approved an annual $50,000 payment to the county Child Advocacy Center, and tossed in an additional $20,000.

The added funding will be reimbursed through federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, County Judge Todd Little said. The request comes as a result of added services and a reduction in fundraising.

In a short presentation before the court, Leslie Deen, executive director of the Ellis County CAC, said the center received 1,765 reports of abuse and neglect in the 2021 fiscal year ending Aug. 31. The CAC’s mission is to assist in justice in these cases, Deen stated. Last fiscal year, the center conducted 437 forensic interviews in relation to court cases, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the increased caseload, Deen told commissioners its former boardroom space has been turned into cubicles for caseworkers, and the agency is currently using Ellis County Sheriff’s Office and city police department space to hold meetings.

Deen said the Sheriff’s Office handles a 33-percent plurality of cases among law enforcement agencies in the county, with other cases spread among the municipalities. Sexual abuse is the largest form of abuse the CAC sees.

The CAC also provides services to families to protect abused children, Deen said. Those services include crisis intervention, referrals to other services, and medical examinations. The agency also provides mental health services and has recently expanded to rent space at the Texas Baptist Home on Richmond Lane in Waxahachie across the street.

“We are putting a Band-Aid on this for now,” Deen told the court. “This is a great opportunity for us to be able to provide mental health services and have plenty of space for that. But we do have some things that we need to address in the next couple of years.”

Audelia, a companion dog at the CAC, has helped with child victims and witnesses by calming them and reducing stress before forensic interviews, Deen said. Audelia also helps with law enforcement personnel who often deal with secondary trauma. The CAC has hosted a companion dog since 2013.

Deen said all services are free to victims, which makes funding so important.

“Our philosophy is that families are stronger when we’re all working together,” Deen said. “They can help kids heal faster when the family is strong.“

Little made an appeal to other agencies in Ellis County to assist the CAC in funding on a pro-rata basis.

“They need to look at the statistics of what’s affecting their community and they need to assist us in the meeting the demand for these interviews,” Little said.

All members of the court were present.

During last Tuesday’s Commissioners Court, Ellis County Sheriff Brad Norman (from left) awarded Deputies Jerry Whitt and Bill Beverly the Life Saving Award for their service to save a life in Ellis County last September.

Other items

• Deputies Bill Beverly and Jerry Whitt of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office were presented with the Lifesaving Award from Sheriff Brad Norman for their actions in an incident on Sept. 10 at the Ellis County Courts Building to save the life of a customer who had collapsed at a service window.

• A request from County Auditor Janet Martin was approved moving the target date for making a new hire in her office from April to immediately because of COVID-related absences in her office.  Commissioners also approved a line-item transfer in the county budget to account for the new position.

• The approved consent agenda consisted of previous meeting minutes, acceptance of various reports, the appointment of James (Norman) Prewitt to a 2-year term on the Emergency Services District No. 9 (Palmer) Board of Directors and William A. Holmes Jr. to a 2-year term on the ESD No. 2 (Midlothian) board of directors, an interlocal cooperation agreement with the city of Red Oak and a few small financial items.

• A lengthy list of plats and replats of properties all less than 17 acres was approved.

• A one-time variance was granted to a property on the west side of Bethel Road in rural Waxahachie for not meeting the minimum road frontage requirement. The property was four inches short of meeting the frontage requirement.

• Commissioners tabled a request for another one-time variance for a property west of Brookside Road in Waxahachie’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.  This property has no road frontage at all but is being granted a driveway easement, and Waxahachie is planning future development that will provide access to this property via a proposed new routing of Brookside Road.

• A jack hammer, a weathervane and a pole saw were declared as salvage items by Precinct No. 3 and will be disposed of accordingly.

• A battery replacement for the Joe White Radio Tower was approved in the amount of $6,069 from Grainger. In a related matter, tower lighting equipment purchase and installation for both the Joe White and Region 10 towers were approved in the amount of $77,746. Both actions will use ARPA funds, pending counsel approval. The city of Midlothian will soon be taking over the county’s radio system writ large.

• Primary and secondary purchase bids were approved for washed pea gravel, hot-mix asphalt, emulsified asphalts, oil sand and crushed limestone. Secondary bids will be re-solicited for hot-mix asphalt at the request of Precinct 2 Commissioner Lane Grayson. Oil sand is not typically used in Ellis County but was part of the bids.

• A 2023 Mack MD7 chassis was purchased for Road and Bridge Precinct 2 from Bruckner Truck Sales Inc. for $89,963.

• The court approved the use of up to $20,000 of ARPA funds for PPE and sanitation services as needed.