Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez said that he requested the court look at the position after he received complaints from several businesses owners who felt intimidated by Beeville and Bee County Fire Marshal James Barrie
“We have had a lot of concerns with the business owners,” Rodriguez said.
At issue are the fees being charged by Barrie, a licensed peace officer, and his carrying a sidearm.
“I think it is kind of intimidating. To some people he might be a bit scary,” Rodriguez said.
“I don’t think we want to get rid of the guy. I just think I want him to understand that he may have been going about it the wrong way.”
Barrie said that many of the misunderstandings about his actions could have been solved by a phone call to his office.
He said that as an investigator, he is sworn to protect the public and as a peace officer, he needs to wear a firearm.
“I could walk in any time on someone getting robbed,” Barrie said.
The fees he charges, he said, run the office.
“I am an independent contractor. I have to run my own office,” he said.
The fees also go to fund the other duties of the position.
“Part of my job is also public education and to further public education in the schools which is lacking,” Barrie said.
He added that he would be open to having the position as a full-time job of the county or city as it would also make it easier to get grants.
Commissioners hired Barrie about two months ago to fill the position left vacant by Kenneth Orrell, who retired.
About a month ago, Barrie announced in this paper that he would begin inspections.
“The appointment of a new fire marshal means getting up to standards for the city and county,” Barrie said at the time. “Per current state laws, it is the responsibility of the fire marshal’s office to conduct annual fire code and life safety inspections on all commercial occupancies.”
According to Barrie, the fees, published at the time in this paper, for inspections is based upon the type of business.
• Foster care/child care homes is $50
• Non-hazard occupancies is $75
• Hazardous occupancies are $100-250.
Rodriguez said he doesn’t have all the answers, such as if the inspections are required, which is why he is asking the court to look again at the position. The commissioner said he has received information that contradicts what he was previously told by Barrie.
A copy of Monday’s court agenda was released late Thursday.
Rodriguez stressed that he wasn’t calling to have the fire marshal removed.
“It is more that we want to clarify some things,” Rodriguez said, “the fees, the weapon, the money that is not coming to the county.”