Plans for a $142,000 communications center remodel, physical fitness program, and a new assistant chief position for the Uvalde Police Department were discussed Sept. 13 when the Uvalde City Council met at city hall.
Finance director Felix Castillo said the 2022-2023 budget, which starts Oct. 1, will fund a newly-created assistant chief of police position, two new employees for the parks department, a compliance officer for the fire department, and implement a 4 percent cost of living raise for employee salaries.
The city is advertising to fill the assistant chief position, seeking an officer with 10 years or more of experience, and at least three years at the lieutenant level, with a listed starting salary of $71,926, plus benefits.
After the meeting, Mayor Don McLaughlin Jr. said Lt. Mariano Pargas, who was acting chief of the UPD and on scene of the Robb shooting on May 24, is still on leave. He said the independent investigation is proceeding with no interference from the city. Retired Austin Police Department detective Jesse Prado, of JPPI Investigations, is conducting the investigation.
“I don’t think it’s going quite as fast as we hoped it would go, but it’s going. We’ll get to the bottom of this,” McLaughlin said.
He said he requested that the investigation include a review of UPD policies and procedures.
“I want to get it right the first time. I don’t want to do it and then come back, and we have to change something that we did. Because all that does is pour salt in everybody’s wounds,” McLaughlin said.
“I know some may get mad before long because the answers aren’t coming as fast as they want, but I promise you, this whole council, we’re going to take that report and we’re going to implement whatever it says to do in it.”
During the council meeting, UPD Chief Daniel Rodriguez told council members about plans for the new fitness program, stating he hopes to send two members of the department to attend Texas Department of Public Safety training to become fitness instructors.
He said, once trained, those officers can also lead an agility test for anyone new applying to be an officer with UPD.
Rodriguez sound he found a model policy which involves fitness testing twice a year, and participants are ranked in percentile depending upon age and gender, and have to meet certain requirements.
“This is a six-week course, it’s not all at one time. I think it’s like, one week one month, then two weeks another month, so it’s not all six weeks at one time,” Rodriguez said.
Adam Martinez, who broached the police fitness matter at an earlier meeting, spoke on the matter, stating he felt it was step in the right direction.
“It was just basically trying to raise the bar for police officers here in Uvalde, because the standards I see are very low and it’s been like that for a long time. Not all of them – but they should be able to lift certain weights,” Martinez said, adding that firefighters typically face fitness tests.
The telecommunications center at Uvalde Police Department is set to be remodeled, thanks to a donation coordinated by the Texas National Emergency Number Association.
Cindy McCraw, president of Texas NEMA, said Evans Consoles is donating four communications consoles. Included with new sheetrock and painting from Nash Consoles, storage from Marlin Interiors, and flooring from Intertech flooring, it adds up to a $125,000-plus donation.
Bexar Metro 911 donated four BodyBilt 911 chairs, $4,800; RapidSOS donated a massage chair for dispatcher health and wellness, $2,000; Carbyne donated an office chair, $200; Russ Bassett donated a Frigidaire stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator, $1,500; and Rapid Deploy donated eight desks with screen dividers for the patrol room, $5,500 and and eight rolling office chairs, $3,200.
McCraw said while in Uvalde to provide assistance after the school shooting, she received several requests from 911 partners wanting to help.
As a result, she compiled a list and the donations are the result of those efforts.
She noted there is no cost to taxpayers for the project. She said it should benefit the community by helping facilitate communications for various agencies which use UPD dispatch. The project is expected to be completed by mid-October.
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