Court receives JJAEP program update

Status of county’s new juvenile offender program provided; administrator job open

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Ellis County dignitaries participate in a groundbreaking for the new Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Center in June at the Ellis County Farm. The JJAEP has been open since late August and is looking for a new administrator, county commissioners were told Tuesday.

The Ellis County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program has been in operation since the last week of August. County commissioners on Tuesday received a full update on the youth initiative from two sitting jurists.

Judge Cindy Ermatinger and Judge William Wallace, co-chairs of the Ellis County Juvenile Board, provided information to inquiring commissioners during the regular bi-weekly meeting of the Commissioners’ Court.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry asked for the report on the JJAEP. Perry said the juvenile program is driven by the Texas Legislature and it is the county’s responsibility to budget for it.

The enrollment in the JJAEP varies from day to day, but Ellis County chief juvenile probation officer Chelsea Smith said the current enrollment is eight students, with a peak of 10 students since the program launched last August. 

Ten school districts in Ellis County have reached agreements to utilize the county program, but so far, the only ones to do so are Waxahachie, Midlothian, Ferris and Palmer, Ermatinger said.

Wallace said the staffing of the JJAEP is under review constantly, and that he and Ermatinger would present a budget adjustment proposal at the end of the school year if one should be needed.

Currently, the JJAEP is looking for an administrator, which Ermatinger confirmed as the only vacancy in the program. The job is being filled temporarily by an official from the juvenile justice side, Ermatinger told the court. The administrator’s position is budgeted at an annual salary of $94,000 per year.

The county and the former JJAEP administrator, Darrin Robinson, parted ways in early January.

Based on questioning from Perry, Ermatinger said a compliance coordinator is in position for a salary of $70,000 and a full-time teacher and special-education teacher are in position for $65,000 each. A part-time teacher’s aide is employed at $24,000 per year.

County Judge Todd Little said salary ranges were set by a committee consisting of himself, Ermatinger, and county human resources director Theresa Taylor. Little said salaries and benefits were set in a range that would make the jobs competitive in the labor market.

Ellis County went over 180,000 population in the 2020 U.S. Census, which Little said mandates the establishment of a JJAEP.

“In a county of our size, this is not something that is voluntary,” Little said. “This is something we had an exemption on back in 2001. As a matter of fact, we were the only county in the state of Texas that had an exemption.”

Little said the Juvenile Board meets monthly and the meetings are open to the public. The meetings are usually held every second or third Wednesday at noon and are held in either the Multipurpose Room or the 378th Judicial District Court.

Other items

• The court discussed variances for a 2.26-acre property on Brookside Road west of Interstate 35E in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Waxahachie. County director of development Alberto Mares said the lot does not meet a total of eight requirements, and presented a list of possible conditions for commissioners to consider adding. Mares said his main concern was setting a precedent for future similar situations.

• The approved consent agenda included previous meeting minutes; acceptance of various reports; payment of Flair invoices using American Rescue Plan Act funds; an accounting correction for Juvenile Justice probation fees; and budgetary line-item transfers.

• The court approved HOK Architectural Services and Architexas as the two most highly qualified providers of architectural services following a request for qualifications. In a separate vote, commissioners approved negotiations with the two firms for design and other related services for future Ellis County projects.

• A 12-month lease with Document Solutions for a copier for use at the Waxahachie Civic Center during jury duty was approved in an amount of $129 per month.

• An interlocal cooperative purchasing agreement with Kaufman County was approved.

• The court renewed an agreement with Martin Marietta for SuperSlurry for one year, and also approved concrete paving services with Muirhead Concrete Services, LLC in the amount of $79,448 or Road and Bridge Precinct 2.

• A contract with Everbridge, Inc. for the Mass Notification System was renewed through May 2025 in the amount of $14,355 per year.

• Payment of unpaid invoices from the remodel of the Sheriff’s Office following water damage from last winter’s storm was approved. County Auditor Janet Martin said an insurance payment of $267,642 to the county is forthcoming.

• Additional laptops were approved for purchase for the Auditor’s Office in the amount of $5,693 using ARPA funds. Martin said the laptops would allow staff members quarantining at home because of COVID-19 to remain productive.

• Commissioners approved a countywide 90-day burn ban, effective Tuesday. Fire Marshal Tim Birdwell recommended the burn ban based on drought conditions. A grass fire last week in the Alma area burned more than 400 acres. Enclosed burning will still be allowed.

• Precinct 1 Commissioner Randy Stinson was reappointed to the North Central Texas Council of Governments 9-1-1 Board of Managers for a 2-year term through December 2023.

• The court appointed Dani Muckleroy to the Regional Aging Advisory Committee for the NCTCOG’s Area Agency on Aging.