Deputy has close call with driver, constable says he needs more staff

WIMBERLEY, Texas (KXAN) - A Hays County constable says growth in the area and increased traffic is putting a strain on his staff. Precinct 3 Constable Ray Helm says his deputies help with morning and afternoon school traffic but will be asking the county to help them soon.

Earlier this week Helm says one his deputies was almost hit by a vehicle when directing traffic near Jacob's Well Elementary.

"I thought I had traffic stopped and I looked to my right and just took a big step back and the vehicle blew right past me," said Hays County Constable Precinct 3 Deputy Cody Cheatham.

Cheatham has been directing traffic in the middle of Farm to Market 2325 for 10 months. He says traffic has never been as bad as it is now. "It's definitely doubled, there's a ton of traffic out there. If we weren't out there it would be chaos," he said.

Helm says thankfully the driver was only going around 30 miles per hour, but is concerned because this is the fourth close call this year. He claims traffic in the area has increased 25 percent or more in the Jacob's Well School area in the morning since last spring.

In a Facebook post Helm writes, "I don't have the staff to be adding another deputy out there but I will have to move a weekend deputy on the weekday shift starting Tuesday through Friday to help with the traffic in the mornings."

Helm says the traffic is causing deputies to work overtime and because they only receive comp, time they are short-staffed in the summer when deputies use that overtime as vacation days. "It's not a parental issue, it's not a school district issue, it's a growth issue," he said.

Helm is already looking at next year's budget and preparing his request to commissioners for more staff. "I don't ask for people unless I need it. There's a lot of difference between just wanting a whole bunch of people here, but when you need something you need it and I don't ask unless I need it," he said. "My number one job is to make sure they are safe and they get home and they're not hit by cars. So, if it takes two of us to be out there at Jacob's Well now, then that's what's going to happen."

Helm says if the congestion on the roads aren't showing the massive growth in Wimberley, the stats do.

"We went from about 140 traffic stops, that is what our average was and we will probably creep 1,200 just this year. Right now we're sitting a little over 900 traffic stops since January first," said Helm.

We wanted to know why they don't just install traffic signals to keep deputy constables out of harms way. Precinct 3 County Commissioner Lon Shell tells us recent studies on two areas did support traffic signals at the intersection of FM 2325 and Valley Springs and FM 2325 and Jacob's Well Road.

They have been designed and are awaiting final approvals. However, those take a long time to get constructed. The commissioner says there are close to 50 ahead of them on TxDOT's list and they are hearing it could take two years.

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