County works toward filling vacancies

The county leapt at the chance to fill a position that has remained vacant.
The Commissioners’ Court declared an emergency last week in order to hire a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent before the next budget cycle.
County Auditor Randy Donner said an emergency can constitute something that is unforeseen or that could cause a public calamity if not addressed. He clarified that adding an extension agent to the payroll falls under the category of unanticipated expenses.
“An agreement came to be with Midland County (in February) to where we’re now going to share four agents,” Donner said.
Donner said the decision would not negatively impact county funds because the current budget allows for three extension agents, Ector County has only had one agent on staff since the budget was approved.
“We’ve had two vacancies that have been unfilled since October 1, 2018,” Donner said. “That’s why from a budget standpoint there wasn’t an issue because we had gone for so long not having two extension agents at all. We already had money left over from the vacancies that were not filled in the first place.”
Regional cost of living has made the local agent positions difficult to fill and spurred AgriLife officials to merge agent responsibilities across Ector and Midland County to raise the offered employee salary and attract applicants.
Midland County Extension Agent Jeff Floyd said some agent positions in the region have been vacant on and off for about the last six years.
The interlocal agreement between the two communities will serve as a pilot program for other areas struggling with financial setbacks and retention.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Dale Childers said he was willing to approve declaring an emergency to hire a quality person. He said the extension office has already received applications for the position and those people “won’t be here by the time we get around to October.”
Ector County Extension Agent Steve Paz said Ector County and Midland County will each spend $10,500 annually to fill the horticulture agent position.
Currently Paz serves as the 4-H agent, Floyd is the agriculture and natural resources agent and Abigail Pritchard will take on the role of the family and community health agent for both counties beginning in June. Once the horticulture agent position is filled, the extension office will be fully staffed.