GILMER — Despite protests from two constables, Upshur County Commissioners Court voted 3-1 Friday to approve a resolution supporting proposed state legislation which could result in the county reducing its number of justices of the peace and constables.
But the potential amendment came under fire at Friday’s meeting from Precinct 1 Constable Gene Dolle and Precinct. 2 Constable Jason Weeks, who charged that it could lead to fewer law enforcement officers on the streets.
Dolle complained the amendment would remove voters’ “ability to choose who they really want,” and that JPs and constables would be “more inclined to please the Commissioners Court” since the court could eliminate their precincts. He also said having only two JPs and two constables would overload the system when “the Sheriff’s Department is stretched to the limit.”
Weeks said “it’s not gonna be the voters that have the say-so” on how many JPs/constables the county would have if the amendment is approved (since the commissioners court would set that). He also said he is taking calls for the “short-handed” sheriff’s office, so lowering the number of JPs and constables won’t “be a money-saver for the county.”
But Precinct 3 Commissioner Frank Berka said that under current state law, even counties with only 10,000 population must have four JP/constable precincts and that the potential amendment “is not about Upshur County. This is about 60-plus counties that have had their rights (to set their number of JP/constable precincts) taken away from them” by past legislation.
Only Precinct 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry voted against Hefner’s resolution, saying afterward she was reflecting the views of constituents who contacted her. Precinct 4 Commissioner Mike Spencer joined Berka and Hefner in voting for the resolution, while County Judge Dean Fowler, who usually votes only to break ties, did not vote.