A request for the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) to partake in the Operation Stonegarden (OPSG) program was met with unanimous approval by the Wharton County Commissioners Court during a Monday, Aug. 12 meeting.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the WCSO and the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office to participate in a program grant was part of the approval by the court.
It gives Sheriff Shannon Srubar and his administration use of available deputies and others to participate in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program.
“This is a huge step in the right direction allowing funds and grants to be used instead of using taxpayer’s funds for these ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) operations,” Srubar said.
During the meeting that Srubar attended, Judge Phillip Spenrath said the grant would provide resources to purchase equipment and fund overtime pay.
Any WCSO deputy who works with the OPSG would be able to bypass the county’s “overtime/comp” policy, but within reason.
“The program requires the county to pay salaries, wages and overtime up front, and then the county would be reimbursed within four weeks 100 percent,” Spenrath said. “The focus of the operation is a joint mission to secure the U.S. border, locate contraband, human smuggling.”
During a Wharton Lions Club meeting, Spenrath was the guest speaker.
“When their sheriff’s office shift is over, they can then work on this task force and the state is making a big effort to stop illegal trafficking, drugs and other criminal activities so this program allows our officers to work over time,” Spenrath said. “Our county officers work four 12-hour shifts so there’s opportunities there for them to work more if they chose.”
County Auditor Barbara Starling said she would work with the WCSO and coordinate with which law enforcement officials utilize the program.