Sheriff’s department budgets for additional north county deputy

PRESIDIO COUNTY — At last week’s meeting, the Presidio County Commissioners Court approved a slot in next year’s budget for an additional deputy serving the northern half of the county. The position would round out the number of full-time Presidio County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) employees on patrol to seven, including County Sheriff Danny Dominguez. 

Chief Deputy Joel Nuñez kicked off the discussion about the new deputy in March, when he asked the commissioners to use money already in the PCSO budget to temporarily create a deputy position through the end of the fiscal year. The commissioners approved his request, but needed to revisit the issue before the FY24 budget was completed. 

In 2015, the commissioners court voted to add a deputy to the southern half of the county. The plan had always been to add an additional deputy up north, but that idea stalled after the Marfa Police Department — whose duties were covered by contract with the PCSO from 2007 to 2017 — was reestablished. 

In March, Nuñez explained that the three deputies patrolling the southern half of the county were often called to help assist in Customs and Border Protection operations. “We have a lot of activity [on the border], it’s increasing,” Nuñez said. “We want someone to cover more of the normal duties of a deputy — citizen complaints, highway patrol, community presence.” 

At last week’s meeting, Nuñez doubled down on his observations about the strain placed on the department. He also explained that the north county deputies patrol a wider area than just Marfa — the more remote reaches of the county along Casa Piedra and Pinto Canyon roads. “If you do the math, two deputies providing 24/7 coverage to Marfa is pretty difficult,” he said.

PCSO Secretary Shanna Elmore explained that there are two additional deputies patrolling the county through Operation Stonegarden, a federal grant program for law enforcement in local governments along the border. Those deputies can’t help with the “normal duties” detailed by Nuñez. “Stonegarden duties are mostly to serve the border initiative and provide support to U.S. Border Patrol when needed,” she said. 

At last week’s meeting, the commissioners voted to approve the PCSO’s application for the next round of Operation Lone Star funding. Operation Lone Star functions like Operation Stonegarden on the state level, providing funding to law enforcement in border counties in Texas. If approved, $87,360 of state money would go toward deputy salaries

The new north county deputy position — separate from the Operation Stonegarden and Operation Lone Star deputies — will be filled by a familiar face for many. PCSO Precinct 1 Constable Steven Marquez will serve as full-time deputy. Marquez resigned from his position as chief of the Marfa Police Department in March, but stated that he would still keep his post at the sheriff’s office. 

The county’s assistant auditor, Alicia Sanchez, explained that because Marquez was already on the county’s insurance payroll, the immediate impact to next year’s budget would be around $54,000.