The county plans to shuffle some staff positions as part of a plan to step up enforcement against game rooms that operate illegally in unincorporated areas of Galveston County.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said Monday Garret Foskit, the county’s current emergency management coordinator, would become the county’s next game room administrator.
Foskit will stay in his current position until the county hires a new emergency coordinator. Henry said he planned to interview a person for that position in the coming days.
The county has been searching for a new emergency management coordinator since July. Whoever fills that position will be responsible for coordinating federal, state and local efforts before and during emergencies, such as a hurricane.
Foskit’s new job will to be enforce a set of rules the county has delayed implementing for almost two years now.
Galveston County received authority to regulate game rooms during the 2014 legislative session, and the law took effect Sept. 1, 2015. Under the state law, the county may “restrict the location of game rooms to specified areas of the county, including the unincorporated area of the county.”
The county commissioners court also can prohibit games within a certain distance of schools, churches and residential neighborhoods and can limit the number of game rooms operating in the county.
The county passed rules in 2016 that would have required game rooms to be permitted by the county if they operated six or more eight-liners and to be subject to inspections.
Commissioners in 2017 suspended the rules, with the promise they would be up for re-approval sometime that year after commissioners refined them. They never did.
County commissioners later aimed for January 2018 as a deadline for rewritten rules, but that date passed without action. The issue hasn’t come up again on the county’s official agenda.
Galveston County Commissioner Stephen Holmes expected the next time the issue would come up would be when the county had hired its new emergency management coordinator, and was ready to have a person in the enforcement role.
“Whatever the direction of emergency management, we’ll finalize things at that point,” Holmes said. “We’ll put all that stuff together at the same time. It’s ready, but we’ll do it at the same time.”
When the new rules are brought forward again, they’ll be more restricted than the previous iteration and will only focus on enforcement in unincorporated parts of the county, Holmes said.
Holmes had previously objected to having a bureaucrat fill the administrator position and thought the job of enforcement should be left to law enforcement. Holmes during a brief interview Monday didn’t raise any objections about the proposal to move Foskit into the position, however.
Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset didn’t have any information about the plan to hire a person to oversee game room compliance, he said on Monday.
Deputies could enforce the regulations and that was the assumption he made about who would enforce the rules when they were first passed, Trochesset said. But the agency had asked for additional staff to investigate and enforce the rules.
The county did not include funds for game-room enforcement in the sheriff’s department budget.