Mineral Wells Area News

To Protect and Serve

To Protect and Serve
October 05
20:37 2022

BY DAVID MONTGOMERY


The Mineral Wells City Council met on Tuesday for the first time since cementing the budget for the 2023 Fiscal Year. The Mineral Wells Police Officers Association (MWPOA) presented a letter raising issues facing Officers and subsequently the city.


Officer Juan Saucedo, Vice President of the MWPOA, took the podium to read the letter to the council.

“In the past twelve months, ten officers and two dispatchers have left the PD, taking away approximately 30% of our staffing,” read Officer Saucedo. “Eight of those officers left within the last four months.”


The letter cited a “substantial pay gap” between MWPD and other local agencies, along with aging equipment and an ill-equipped facilities as the top reasons for the attrition in the department.


“The comprehensive plan that was done 50 years ago has a new police station in it,” explained Council Member Beth Watson. “We really don’t need to talk about whether it’s a need anymore, we need to figure out how to make it happen.”


“I’m very aware of the condition of the facilities that you guys work in,” Said Council Member Doyle Light. “I’m heartbroken that we haven’t been able to do more.”


While facilities and pay were the top reasons for the departments attrition, the consequences of attrition are affecting the community.


“Officers have less time to patrol neighborhoods and deter crime from happening,” Officer Saucedo continued. “Instead, officers often have to go from call to call, with some of these calls requiring reports and documentation that can take several hours to complete. Lower priority calls, such as noise complaints and lower-level thefts, may take several hours for an officer to respond.”


“It’s a tough situation,” said Council Member Jerrel Tomlin. “You need to know that we support you. And, with this budget that we just adopted… the chief concerns of the city were public safety and streets. And we did our best to give attention to those two things.”


“I feel like my hands are tied,” said Council Member Maldonado. “We just finalized a budget.”


“I think the public needs to understand,” said Mayor Regan Johnson. “When we go before the public and have to say at some point, we’re gonna have to ask for more taxes… They need to understand too, what ya’ll are dealing with on a day to day basis. I appreciate the harsh reality,” lamented Johnson.


This issue comes at a time right after the city has worked diligently to adopt a balanced No New Revenue budget to appease citizens begging for relief from rising property valuations. While the MWPOA acknowledged compensation increases for officers were secured this past budget, that still does not seem to be enough to slow the bleed of officers leaving for neighboring departments with better benefits, equipment, and facilities.

“Jason and I have intended all along to look at this after the first of the year and get a barometer on those critical needs,” said Sullivan, “which is that Street Department, these Police Officers, and those Firefighters, and figure out what we can do and sustain.”


“If those people that pay the taxes, that pay our salaries… if they’re not gonna be able to sustain it, then it’s a fools errand,” continued Sullivan. “Then we need to look at [our] town and decide what we’re gonna give up.”


“These are challenging times and there may come a point when difficult decisions have to be made about the services that the city provides,” said Watson.


“We’re gonna keep trying, we’re not giving up,” continued Sullivan, “There are factors at play here that are bigger than all of us in this room… This is historic. It’s not a test of the battle or how we respond, but it’s really about this community… the resilience of Mineral Wells.”


“I love working here and a bunch of us, that’s our thing,” said Officer Saucedo. “We grew up here, and we want to continue serving it. But the morale is starting to go low.”


The council seemed lost for solutions. In the face of a massive economic downturn through COVID, supply chain issues, and runaway inflation, the needs of our local community seem to outnumber what is available to go around. Without raising taxes and continuing to put a burden on our population or a massive windfall from an outside source, the city will need to make the hard decisions about what is to come.


About the Author: David Montgomery is a Mineral Wells resident passionate about local politics. He wants to see transparency in government and foster community involvement. Married for over 12 years with 3 children, David works full time at a church where he leads a team of volunteers in utilizing technology to spread the gospel. His hobbies include craft coffee and BBQ.

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