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County's Twin Peaks price tag nears $1 million, still rising

County's Twin Peaks price tag nears $1 million, still rising

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One month of increased security at the McLennan County Courthouse cost more than $400,000 in overtime pay for the first Twin Peaks shootout trial, bringing the county’s total costs to date related to the deadly melee to nearly $1 million.

McLennan County commissioners Tuesday approved several line-item budget requests to fund expenses as testimony in the trial of Bandidos Dallas chapter president Jacob Carrizal entered its fourth week Monday.

The overtime cost came in at about $365,000, County Auditor Stan Chambers said.

With taxes and benefits, that amount reaches about $440,000, said Frances Bartlett, first assistant county auditor.

County Judge Scott Felton said it might be time to bring in sheriff’s office leadership to discuss future costs.

“To be truthful, it was a little higher than I thought it would be,” Felton said. “We haven’t been through this before, so we had nothing to measure it against.”

In February, commissioners agreed to adjust overtime rules for the sheriff’s office in preparation for the trials stemming from the 2015 shootout at the former Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco that left nine dead and 20 injured. Formerly, deputies received time off to offset any overtime they worked rather than additional pay. It was a decision, commissioners said at the time, they would revisit if needed.

The difficulty in budgeting for or anticipating costs associated with the current and future Twin Peaks trials are all the unknowns, Felton said. How many people will actually go to trial for their alleged roles in the Twin Peaks melee versus taking plea deals can’t be predicted, he said. Carrizal is the first of 154 bikers indicted in the incident to be tried.

“Nevertheless, we don’t think it’ll be anytime soon that we’ll be seeing a decrease in the amount of overtime that we’re paying,” Felton said.

Commissioners also approved moving $24,020 from the county contingency fund to the criminal district attorney’s fund for the line item “Twin Peaks” and professional services. Another $1,500 was approved to cover costs associated with jury meals and lodging.

County commissioners put a placeholder in the fiscal year 2018 budget for costs associated with the unprecedented incident. Multiple department heads came before commissioners during budget discussions asking for additional money for their budgets for anticipated Twin Peaks-related costs. Commissioners denied those requests, with the intention of not padding department budgets, rather opting to draw from the county’s contingency fund as needed.

Commissioners put $1,015,500 in the contingency fund at the beginning of fiscal year 2018. Of the $361,660 that has been transferred to other line items in the fiscal year 2018 budget, $324,330 is related to Twin Peaks. After the approval of costs Tuesday, the contingency fund sits at $653,840 one month into the fiscal year.

Bartlett said the county’s Twin Peaks-related expenses are nearing $1 million since the incident occurred. The county was reimbursed about $268,000 of that from a state grant. Other costs have gone toward the care of prisoners, overtime, autopsies, indigent defense costs and other expenses, she said.

Felton said he is hopeful the governor’s office will offer even more reimbursements to the county. He said county leaders will submit a request to the governor’s office in the coming weeks.

“We’re kind of playing it by ear right now,” he said.

Commissioners also approved moving $140,989 from the courthouse security contingency fund to another line item to fund a portion of the purchase of added CCTV equipment and for the purchase of Tasers for courthouse security.

Felton said there had been discussions about increasing the use of technology at the courthouse prior to the Twin Peaks incident.

“When Twin Peaks came up, we said this is a good time to look at all this,” he said. “This would be an expansion of what we already have.”

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