Texas county approves DA security wall

Bulletproof wall to be built in the front entrance of the Walker County District Attorney's building

Feb. 11--HUNTSVILLE -- County officials have decided to move forward with adding extra security measures at the district attorney's office to take advantage of a grant from the state.

The Commissioners Court on Monday approved a bid to construct a bullet-proof wall in the front entrance of the Walker County District Attorney's building located at 1036 11th St. LMC Corporation out of Houston was awarded the project after placing the winning bid of $39,470 to install the wall, which was designed by County Engineer Jerry Nemec.

LMC's cost to build the wall is $7,000 cheaper than the second-lowest bid and is on par with what the county expected to pay for the project when it was first brought before the court in October.

"LMC is a reputable company that has done this kind of work around Houston," County Purchasing Director Mike Williford said. "They had the lowest bid and it meets all of Jerry Nemec's specifications."

District Attorney David Weeks asked the commissioners to move quickly on the project because the county has already received a grant from the Governor's Office to install electronic devices such as cameras and keyless entries at the DA's Office. The state, however, would not pay for construction.

"I'm afraid we might lose this grant," Weeks told the court. "We got it last year and it has just been sitting there. We will also be able to use this grant to expand electronic security at other offices in the county, so we need to take advantage of it."

The county has been wanting to add extra security at the DA's office after Kaufman County District Attorney Michael McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were gunned down last March at their home in Forney. McLelland's assistant prosecutor, Mark Hasse, was also murdered outside the courthouse early last year.

Precinct 1 Commissioner B.J. Gaines Jr., Pct. 3 Commissioner Bobby Warren and Pct. 4 Commissioner Tim Paulsel all voted to approve the bullet-proof wall. County Judge Danny Pierce was not present at Monday's court meeting.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Ronnie White was the only member of the court to vote against it. He said he wanted to take a look at the security at other county offices before he could make a decision.

"At this point David, I can't support it until we take a look at other parts of the county," White told Weeks. "If we have gotten to the point where you need bullet-proof walls that is scary. I just want to look at the other parts of the county first."

County applies for Falk

trial reimbursement

The county is trying to recover as much money as it can to alleviate the expense of the capital murder trial of inmate John Ray Falk Jr., which ended in a mistrial last year and came with a more than $500,000 price tag.

The Commissioners Court approved to apply for a grant from the Governor's Office on Monday to reimburse the costs the District Attorney's Office spent trying the case in Brazos County.

"We are asking for this grant to cover expenses for the prosecution -- room and board, gas, the assistance we got from the Texas Attorney General's Office and for investigators," Weeks said.

Falk is accused of being an accomplice to the murder of Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officer Susan Canfield when he and another inmate escaped the Wynne Unit in September 2007. His trial began in November 2012, but was delayed two months when the prosecution challenged the fairness of the jury instructions.

The case bounced around the appeals courts before District Judge Ken Keeling declared a mistrial in January 2013. The trial was held in Bryan, so Walker County had to pay additional travel costs for the prosecution on top of the fees for Falk's defense attorneys.

So far the county has spent about $580,000 on Falk's trial and has received $551,000 in reimbursement money from the state.

"We have received money from the Legislature to pay for Falk's defense, so we have gotten most of the money back," Weeks said. "The Legislature has had these funds in the past, but there was some concern when the cost of this trial first came up because times were tough and the state had cut those funds.

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