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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Multi-agency tri-County Winter Weather Prparedness Meeting, 11/15/2015 1:30 PM Presidio County Courthouse

Tri-County Emergency Preparedness- Winter Weather meeting
12/15/2015 1:30 PM

Judge Guevara presides, Judge Duer from Jeff Davis County present
Judge Cano from Brewster County was unable to make it.

Multiple agencies presenting:

Carlos Carlona from El Paso presents:
Winter Weather preparedness is primary topic.

National Weather Service: Mark Strobin presenting
Expect to have strongest El Niño on record. Should decrease rapidly over the summer. La Niña expected next summer. 
El Niño pulls jet stream towards the south. Colder air. Storms follow jet stream.
El Niño mostly affects winter and spring. Wet and colder. Sea surface temperatures are a major factor in whether we have an El Niño or not. Predicted to have more snow and rain for this year. 
So far we have had an extremely warm Dec. Changes coming next week and by Christmas should be quite cold in general. January will be petty rough month, as will Feb.
March, April, May will be wetter than normal. Long severe weather season.
Mountains should expect a greater snowpack this year. 
Warm rain onto the mountain snowpack in Spring could create flooding.
Faux app for smartphones (app but not allowed to be called an app since it is governmental) available
@nwsmidland on Twitter, also on FB.

Steve Chavez with WebEOC
Online incident management software. Tool is free and open for use for approved users. 
Emergency Operations Center: this software creates a virtual EOC. Different decision makers can log in and share information.
Can use during an incident, in this case, a winter incident.
Monitored by the State of Texas on a daily basis.
Access determined by main decision makers in the County.
Different access levels can be set; provides different views.
Counties can request aid from the State on a live basis; faster than any other method.
Capability to share information on shelters, capacity, capabilities. 
This tri-county area currently not utilizing WebEOC. Use can integrate us with the rest of the State.

Frank Rodriguez- Rio Grande Electric Coop, Alpine. Have been working on maintenance to power lines to alleviate problems in advance. Have extra contractors in the area to address issues as they come. Backup generator has been recently installed in the office to insure office can stay operational during an outage. Judge Guevara asks how RGEC is notified when power in remote areas go out. FR says there are remote methods of notification, and that members are also very responsive to tell them when power is out. The line to Candelaria is very remote and long, so finding the actual problem on that line sometimes is a problem and can take a long time. This year they have already dropped extra poles out in that region to be more responsive. 

Patty Rubio with 211. El Paso Dept of Public Health in El Paso. Work with 6 counties.
Assistance guidelines through calling 211. Includes family and food issues.

Emergency Management Coordinators: 
Gary Mitschke: Presidio County
Bart Medley: Jeff Davis County- importance of EMC's knowing what's going on. Sharing resources between counties, etc. Davis EOC manager is Jim Bauer. 
Van Ostrand: Brewster County. Stresses distance involved make things different than in a largely populated area. 

Texas Emergency Medical Task Force: Steve Surface: part of the Texas Disaster Medical System. Acute Care side of Texas Dept of State Health Services
Ambulance Strike Teams for major evacuations of places like hospitals.
Mass Evacuations in general.
EMTF-9 Ambulance/Bus. Over the road bus that can do 20 patients at one time.
Hospital evacuations, HAZMAT exposures, etc
Substitute for air transports when weather prohibits flying.
RN strike teams.
Mobile Medical Unit- semis and box trucks with equipment, staging tents, etc.- multiple configurations available for different situations.
BBRMC hospital rep asks if it is possible to share resources with another region when this large region gets hit hard, if resources are available. Steve Surface says that other regions can be put on notice and can respond of need be. Also trying to add an AmBus in Midland/Odessa. Held up due to politics and also the AmBus manufacturer has gone out of business. Infectious disease response is being developed to become a part of this service. Working on it, but not yet ready to announce.

TXDOT- James Stevensen. Maintenance engineer for El Paso Region.
De-icing operations, etc. 
59 dump trucks, 10 yd and 6 yd
50 snow plows,
20 de-icing units
54 wax spreaders
Salt and sand
Liquid meltdown material for extreme cold weather
Granular particulate to mix with salt

Worst kind of weather is the Rain and snow wintry mix. 
Try to put down icing materials before the storm. Rain can wash away icing materials before it freezes or snows. Lots of ice on the roads around here. Black ice is most dangerous type.
Snow is a little easier to handle than ice.
Freezing fog in high elevations. 
Storm coordination- usually comes out of El Paso.
Challenges include lack of cell phone services in region. Distances between metropolitan areas. Lack of semi/rig tow trucks in region. Mountains, distances in general. Unpredictability of weather.
El Paso district is by far the largest of the 25 TXDOT districts in the State.
21,700 square miles- larger than 9 states.
In a major regional emergency it is likely that local resources will be tasked northward to I-10 maintenance. This has not yet happened at the expense of local service but it could. 
Gary Mitschke asks how TXDOT gauges to close the roads? 
The decision to close a road is normally by group decision of TXDOT and local leaders, EMS, Sheriffs, etc. Also a resource based decision. 

Closing comments from judges.
Judges thank everyone for taking time out of their day to be here. Refreshments and coffee served. 
Adjourn at 3:42 PM







Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Notes from Presidio International Port Authority meeting 12/08/2015, 4PM, Presidio, TX

Presidio International Port Authority meeting, 12/8/2015 4:00 PM, Presidio

Guevara, Ferguson, Tavares, Hernandez, Callum, Escontrias, White and H. Cowan.

Judge Guevara speaks about S&B Engineers. Had contract with them to design and engineer the bridge. Since PIPA is going with TXDOT they are no longer going to be used. Send two more bills for $270,000 and $79,000. Not yet paid. Claim contract was for $2.4 million, contract does not state an amount, someone from S&B said it was for 1.7 million. They have not reached $1.7 million yet. Daniel Rios from S&B says 2.4 million. Judge says she would like to submit the two bills to TXDOT and have them paid. Jake Giesbrecht says that he agrees with the $1.7 million dollar figure. 
More discussion. Hernandez asks of this should be an item for commissioners court. Some discussion on this. 
Jim White says there is no decision to be made... Hold up on paying these bills is that the $2.4 million is listed on the bills as the contract amount. TXDOT is not comfortable with this. Judge will clarify the $1.7 million figure with TXDOT and have them pay the bills, thus closing out S&B

Item 6- appointing new members to board- discussion with appropriate action. 
Judge asks Jake for recommendations. Some names batted about. 
Mayor Ferguson asks how many new members there should be. Some say two, and others say the is not a set number.
Isela Nunez and Franz Felharbor nominated by Mayor. Present.
Obed Escontrarias says he is interested. 

Judge moves to adjourn into executive session at 4:25.

Reconvene at 4:31

Motion made by Mayor to add Isela and Franz. Motion carries.

Item 7- elect officers. 
White says that he has though about this and has a plate of names and positions ready.
Motions to make Lorenzo Hernandez as Chair, Isela Nunez as Vice Chair, Judge Guevara as Secretary, Mayor Ferguson as treasurer. 
Discussion... 
Tavares weighs in in agreement. Seconds. 
Judge Guevara does not agree. 
Agrees with Lorenzo to be chair, wants to nominate herself as vice-chair.
Hernandez points our to her that being part of the group is more than enough to participate in a substantial way.
Judge asks if someone else would like to be Secretary. 
White says this is a starting point, we have to start somewhere and starting with imperfect but balanced is a good way to go. 
Motion and second on the table. White calls for a vote.
Questions as to whether voting should be on a slate or on individuals for each position. 
Vote counting, six votes yes, motion carries. 
White reiterates that everyone needs to work as a team. 

Item 8- executive director. Talk about Jake...
Questions as to how to pay Jake... Jake is most qualified; general agreement on that.
Hernandez says agenda says just hire, not decide pay, etc.
Discussion as to whether you should hire someone without paying them. Maybe decide how much to pay first and then try to decide who to hire.
Discussion regarding what agenda means...
White asks for clarification as to why this even makes a difference. 
Jake weighs in and says that since this is just the beginning he is not willing to discuss numbers until this really gets started...
Will work for peanuts until things are clarified as far as what and where this goes.
Says there will be a lot of new CBI funding available and this is the way to get access to this. Formation of the structure is key and needs to happen now. 
Jake says he is willing to work or now and figure out the numbers at a later date based on what is achieved.
Escontrias wants to table this whole item.
Talk of appointing Jake as a spokesman until he can be hired and paid. Hernandez wants to hire him and make it all happen later...
Judge wants to know about the 559 and how many days do we have to execute it. Ten days for this to be finished. 
Questions as to what the board will show on the 559 numbers-wise. 
Judge says that she would like to have Jake work on the 559 and figure out what to pay him next meeting.
Mayor moves to hire Jake for one dollar and renegotiate fee as soon as able. Second by White. Vote- motion carries. 
Jake says he needs everyone's help on the 559 application. 
Application will take one year to get authorized, does not have to be perfect but things are in place for success.
Jake says this a new era for port partnerships. Shift by the Feds towards local control since it works better. Board needs to dedicate itself to spending good time and efforts on this.
Monday there will be a number of officials here from Mexico to discuss bridge. Jake says Henry Cuellar and Will Hurd are working on this together and they are united in support.
Discussion on hours of port commercial inspections. Difficult issues concerning Mexican hours and US CBI hours. Santa Teresa NM has Foxconn corporation paying for extra hours of port operation.
White says we are going to have to fight hard for extended hours, cooperation and not give in to resistance. 
CBP focuses more on the people side of things when judging hours, load etc than commercial side. Focus need to be on commercial side, where the money is. 


Brad Newton announces that from 1-5 public hearing on Monday at PAC. Public meeting and encourages everyone to be here for that.

Adjourn at 5:00 PM.


Preface to notes on Presidio International Port Authority Meeting, 12/8/2015

Thanks for your interest in the Port (bridge and rail bridge) expansion projects proposed and/or underway in Presidio.
I have missed the last several meetings of PIPA, so am a bit out of the loop, but before I submit my notes, I'll give a quick overview of a couple of topics pertinent to the situation.

The PIPA was formed about 9 months ago as a partnership between the City of Presidio and Presidio County to help facilitate the auto/truck/pedestrian bridge expansion at Presidio/Ojinaga. Years in the making, the effort to improve the bridge through expansion and other upgrades is about to pay off. Like many other things, the path has been long and the road to success is tricky. The primary stated goal of bridge expansion has been to improve border commerce on the commercial (trucking) side of things first and foremost. The auxiliary purpose is to lessen wait times for tourists and shoppers. Increased quality and efficiency of security are another focus.

Negotiations between two countries, their governmental agencies, regulations,  their cultures of doing business and everything that goes with all that make any progress tricky and also somewhat fragile. PIPA has been a step in the right direction, in my opinion, to increase communication and show solidarity on the part of the County and City in favor of port improvements.

Without going into a long dissertation that I am not even qualified to write, given my knowledge level of the extensive complexity of what has occurred on this project over the last 7-10 years, I will try to explain where it is now.
The Texas Dept of Transportation, who is the owner of the current bridge, has, after a long while of not expressing much interest, decided that they want to be the agency that owns, operates, and maintains the  bridge. Prior to this revelation, the County was going to build, operate and maintain a toll bridge next to the existing bridge. Now that TXDOT will be operating it, there will be no toll and PIPA's role is transforming more into an advocacy group to maximize local input towards the outcome of the project, especially operations-wise with regard to commercial trade, port inspection hours, and the like.

Referenced in the notes from the meeting yesterday is a CBP program referred to as "559" that allows for public/private port of entry development projects and for certain reimbursements of expenses under Section 559 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. PIPA is looking to participate in this program in order to achieve goals of increased port commercial inspection hours and/or staffing.

The government web page that describes this program can be viewed here.www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry/resource-opt-strategy/public-private-partnerships

Other than that, I'd like to issue a reminder that my accounts of any meetings I take notes at for this blog are subject to my not so great hearing (rock and roll- it was totally worth it, by the way), my possible lack of knowledge on last names, spellings of names, etc, and the fact that I do not re-write or revise my live notes later. Comments by readers are always welcome and will be posted whether I agree with them or not. Comments may not be anonymous, however, as this journal is not anonymous.

Thanks again for reading- please be involved in the governmental process!
DB

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Presidio County Commissioners Court meeting 12/8/2015

Presidio County Commissioners Court, 12/8/2015, 9AM, Marfa.

All present including County Attorney John Fowlkes.

No public comments

Judge's announcements: TCBG (block grant) awarded. 
Letter from TX Dept of Agriculture. Have questions regarding grants from 2011-2013. Mismatch in numbers between money awarded and money spent. Auditor is working on this. May take some time. Did not have an effect on current grants.
Texas Historical Commission sent a letter stating that monitoring for clearing of Redford canal should have an archeological monitor. Instructions on how to do that included.
Winter weather planning meetings coming up next week, Nov 15th. Department heads to meet regarding same on Nov 16th. South county area does not have warming centers in case of power outages. Lorenzo Hernandez says the Sheriff's Dept and Road and Bridge crew help support winter operations when needed in the past.
Lorenzo Hernandez says City of Presidio has some generators that PMDD bought and can be deployed. Jim White mentions that County needs to be prepared to pre-wire water wells, etc with generators before the weather gets bad. Judge Guevara is concerned about people who are on oxygen. Judge wants to implement a 211 program with the cities to help people in need. Cities would be able to check on people, already have people at risk identified. Questions about how to get the pre-wire for Candelaria well done. Who is in charge of it now? Unknown. County going to contact Mr Bloomberg for initial help, advice. 
Judge says that Mrs Arias from Presidio was injuring about Food Bank building in Presidio. She is a volunteer with West Texas Food Bank. Wants to know if they could use that building since it is not being used. Lorenzo Hernandez says that's a good idea, he will help facilitate that. Mrs Arias can contact him and he will assist. The people who had been trying to get it going before were not able to get it done for various reasons. West TX Food Bank is ready to step in. Next food distribution will be Dec 15. 
Open house this Friday 1-3; open house at the courthouse. 

Commissioners announcements:
Eloy Aranda says that rains have created concerns about potholes in City of Presidio. Would like to help out the City to assist with material or other things with regard to road repairs. There is an inter-local agreement to share some equipment, etc.
Judge Guevara has been asking for a copy of the City of Presidio's budget for weeks and was told "it's not ready" copy will be $25.00. Perhaps the City of Presidio could help out with that. Unsure of how a budget could be passed without it being complete. City of Presidio has not yet filed their budget as required by law, nor is it posted on their website, as required by law. Unsure of why this is, but County would like to help them despite this. However, a copy of their budget is needed. 
Chris Webber from TXDOT will be contacted to try to get some support for Presidio streets. Always helpful.

Big Bend Telephone company presentation by Russell Moore:
Aaron Rodriguez presenting in his place.
Proposal for telephone and other services. 
Hosted PBX system: hosted through the web, cloud. Can be maintained and modified off-site. Hosted IP PBX lines. Every phone is a line, as many lines as you want. As many phone numbers as you want. 
BBTC would install, train, provide equipment and support. Fiber to every building, buildings would be interconnected. Computing and phones. 
Providing services already in Presidio. Would link Presidio and Marfa together. Shared 100mb/s internet speed. Unlimited local and long distance calls. Keep same phone numbers for all lines. 
Phones are Cisco 4 line business phones; conference, three way, transfer, etc.
Better sound quality. Network buildout would be aerial or underground. Patch panels where fiber terminates, optical terminal where there is a backup generator of some sort, like at the jail. Keeps network up in case of power failure.
Provide remote location phones/ internet at Redford school, etc. 
Proposal also provided to Jeff Davis County. Brewster County already on system, City of Alpine. Can separate billing by department.
Firewall provided. Main firewall for County, can be shut.
One time buildout costs, then monthly recurring costs. If county opts for this, fiber will be able to be used around Marfa. Buildout includes access for city.
Photocopiers could be networked, could reduce the number of copier rentals.
Computers could print to any printer within network. 
Time frame for installation is minimum of 90 days, probably more like 120 days. 
Judge says that 911 was down on the ATT network last month and calls were re-routed to Alpine. This could help us avoid that problem. Aaron says that 911 routing all goes through ATT now and when ATT trunks are down all 911 networks are currently down. Rio Grande Council of Governments wants redundancy, looking at linking into BBT system regardless of which provider counties go with.
Ray Ellis from BBT is here, can help address technical issues, if there are questions.
Proposal today is incomplete as details on numbers of lines, etc are not included. 
Current ATT speeds average around 6mb/s, BBT up to 100mb/s. More modern system, fiber directly up to businesses. Alpine already experiencing this. 
Dedicated fiber line for courthouse system would be actual 100mb/s. Would not be shared with other businesses along the fiber line. Would work with Nectar Computers to identify where current points of contact are for existing lines. Work with Sam Cobos, facilities manager. Gary Mitschke asks if a fiber cut could shut down all the counties. Aaron says theoretically it could, but Ray Ellis says by the first of next year there will be additional redundancies; they are working and building them out now. 

Skip to Item #10- Big Bend Telephone request to obtain easement for buried cable across Presidio County property in Ruidosa. 20 foot wide easement request. BBT buying a lot from Bloomberg, want to place a pole there, access point. Jim White makes motion to approve. Hernandez seconds. Unanimous.

Back to item #7- presentation from David Quin of Public Power Tool with follow up pricing estimates for power purchasing for Presidio County in comparison to current pricing rates.
Power used over last 12 months was used for basis of pricing. Estimated pricing at 3.4257 cents/kW. Public Power Tool is a non-profit created by Texas Leg to save public entities money by negotiating power deals in bulk contracts.
Plus modal is 3.875 cents. John Fowlkes asks about how Public Power Tool purchases long term contracts in the face of dropping prices. Quin says they are looking at different ways to purchase power forward. Currently look to lock in a rate for the near future, through approx 2019, for County. Quin confirms that each County's contracts are individual, but they negotiate in bulk when they can. This contract discussed here would be a bridge contract unique to Presidio County.
Loretto Vasquez asks if the numbers here reflect all county buildings consumption. Yes, all 43 accounts, according to Quin.
Current provider is WTU. Highest we currently pay is 6.78/kW 
Patty Roach asks if proposal includes an analysis on current costs vs proposed. Quin says no, since he does not know what we are currently paying per account.
Discussion only item. Concluded. 

Item #8- discussion with action as appropriate to require all elected officials to complete, sign and turn in conflict of interest forms to Treasurer by Jan 4, 2016. Item clarifies procedure on previous agenda item creating and requiring forms. Lorenzo Hernandez asks to move it to the 12th, next Commissioners a Court meeting.
Judge has no problem with that. Hernandez makes motion, seconded by Vasquez, unanimous.

Item 9- fireworks restrictions. Prohibits certain fireworks in Presidio County. Hernandez asks about burn ban. Gary M says burn ban expired and we are not under a burn ban. This is a lesser restriction, but gives us some control. Gary says State allows more days this year to sell fireworks. Judge says that this prohibits the sale of skyrockets and sticks. White asks about time frame. Aranda asks about fireworks displays. Crystal Funks called City of Presidio to see if they wanted to designate an area and nobody got back to her. Designated area in Marfa would be Vizcaino Park. This regulation would only apply to this current holiday season. Having yearlong burn ban would make this a longer term regulation. Gary says State sets deadlines regarding creating these fireworks restrictions. This restricts the sale of these items and the ignition of these items. More discussion regarding generals of fireworks and burn bans, etc. Hernandez says we have bigger problems than this. Recommends no action, no action taken.

Item 11- Nominees for Presidio County Appraisal District Board. Unanimous to repeat last year's appointees.

Item 12- executive session.
Item 13- executive session.
Convene into executive session at 10:25 AM.

Reconvene into open session at 11:45. I re-entered the room at 11:52, was assisting a customer in my office.

County Auditor's Report: all treasurer managed bank accounts have been reconciled through Sept. Independent audit info shod be timely this year. Has a sheet for potential use in tracking agencies that receive funds from County. Presents that to commissioners and recommends they use it or something similar. 

Treasurer's Report: Frances Garcia. Presents receipts from tax office for over one million dollars. Reflects two weeks of collections. Good rate of collections. 

Office of Management and Budget: Katie Sanchez: has some bills to present. Presents countywide vacation and comp time liability totals at end of FY 2015.  States re: $163.000 CSVT award. Commissioners need to create a budget page for that award. 
Discussion regarding employee(s) with too much comp time accumulated. Hernandez says commissioners should send a letter to dept heads who need to make their employees take their comp time. White says that following that commissioners need to refuse payment. County is currently liable for $62,000 in comp time. 
$120,000 plus or minus including vacation time, etc. Judge says that commissioners need to send a letter to dept heads and inform that payment will not be made. Commissioners begin to discuss revising the policy to limit the possible liability of the County in the case of someone quitting and collecting pay for comp time. 

County/District Court: Accepted, no discussion.

Presidential Permit Report: discussion regarding additional members to PIPA. Meeting later today at 4 in Presidio and may appoint 2 more members on top of two already added. (I plan on attending this meeting)

Jail Report: White says federal prosecutor says he will be prosecuting all OTM's, keeping the jail full. OTM stands for Other Than Mexicans. Hernandez wants to see how the County can get a figure on what the jail is spending on a monthly basis, semi-annually. Katie Sanchez says she can generate numbers. Nobody from Sheriff's Office or Jail here to report or answer questions. Loretto Vasquez wants details on facility repairs, condition with every report.
White says this is even more important now that it appears the jail will be near capacity for the near future. Gracie's father passed away and she had to take off work, she probably had to miss this meeting to catch up. Commissioners are happy with performance, and the report.

No probation dept report.

Water District: Rudy Garcia. For month of Nov one drilling permit approved. Collected seven water samples in Nov. Good quality of water generally. Two wells tested off HWY 169 in near proximity were dramatically distant. Thinks one may be slightly polluted, as water smelled. Will try to get board to give him permission to test. 14 well samples reported to State. Ruidosa community well tested and had a high level of particulate. Thinks well may be getting some water from the Chinati volcanic material nearby. 

Capital Projects/Road and Bridge: Ruben Carrasco

Emergency Management: Gary Mitschke- last week there was a structure fire near Ruidosa. Total loss, but issue is Presidio Fire/EMS dispatch system, which is still not integrated into radio. Being notified by County dispatch by text. Probably a 30 minute delay in notification to volunteers since a group text was not sent, although that is how it is usually done. Estimated that may have cost additional 30 minutes for response. Not a good situation. Deputy was dispatched and then fire dept was dispatched after confirmation of fire. Extra lag time. Dispatch system really needs to be integrated. Everything is ready but County needs to make the call to the State to implement delivery and installation of the system upgrades. 
Weather planning meeting next week: moving forward with installation of switch gear for generators. Installation at school in Marfa will happen. Electrician will give estimate next week. Ruidosa, Candelaria, Redford- we need to look at those places and what systems they are on. Fortunately for Presidio there is the battery (BOB) as a backup, but Candelaria and Ruidosa lines are very isolated and usually are the last lines to be repaired during a major outage given the low population levels. Very rough terrain to get through to repair lines. Rio Grande Electric Coop in charge.
Want to keep water wells powered, Gary wants to know if the County is interested in paying for those wells to be fitted for backup. White says there's no budget. Hernandez says that these communities are out on the county and other areas are in cities, priority for county may be outside the cities. White points out that those areas are also the last to be repaired and may need help for longer periods of time, possibly exacerbating a bad situation. Hernandez says he is most concerned about Candelaria and Ruidosa. Further discussion about all the different places within the county that could be impacted in a major power outage. Water systems power paramount in discussion. Hernandez says he will contact the Presidio MDD about the generators they have in their possession, possibly ten or so, and see if access could be shared if need be. Discussion about Quonset hut near Candelaria owned by the GLO, possible access to use since it's abandoned. End of report

White makes motion to approve all other reports without discussion. Unanimous. (Reports were submitted in advance on paper to commissioners.)

Line item transfers:
Tires for emergency Management truck (judge's truck)
Equipment lease on copier.
Some other small items. 

Bills and expenses: 
Tire repair on old water truck in Presidio- $100 to Tom's Texaco. Hernandez says we overpaid. Ruben says there are extra parts, different for that truck, new tube, new collar. Old Ford truck with old tech tires. Usually road and bridge does their own repairs. Hernandez would like to see new tires, rims, etc for that truck. 

Judge makes motion to approve. Airport fuel bills mentioned. 
Water bills, Florcita Saenz for clerk's professional  services. 
Chase asks about TXDOT bill for emergency runway repairs. Not in packet, looking for Bill. $1727.47 

Unanimous

Minutes of previous meetings:
Hernandez asks Virgie Pallarez if she could, in the future, email minutes in advance. Virgie says no problem. 
Unanimously approved.

Meeting adjourned at 12:54 PM



Thursday, December 03, 2015

Applying for and obtaining a Texas Occupational Driver's License

Writing as Judge Beebe, with regard to JP Court business:

I have been the Presidio County Justice of the the Peace for Northern Presidio County for 11 full months  now, and one of the more confusing processes I have dealt with deals with Occupational Licenses.

An Occupational License, or ODL, is a form of provisional temporary permit to drive legally for drivers whose license has been revoked or suspended. Applicants have to show a genuine need for an ODL related to school, work and/or "essential household duties". The process of applying for an ODL and is complicated and the Texas DPS web site does a very poor job of explaining how it all works.

This past week I had had four potential applicants come in to see if they could get an order for an ODL, and given the spotty success rate of a few prior people who wanted to get them from me the last few months, I decided to do some research on my own to clarify the steps one would need to take to apply for and successfully receive an occupational license.

First of all, the way I see it, an occupational license is a last resort at receiving permission to drive. It could also be a temporary emergency resort for someone who may have recently gotten a new job or something similar to that which would require one to be able to drive legally immediately. I do not believe an occupational license is a wise way to try to get around paying old tickets or DPS surcharges in the surcharge program (a whole 'nother chapter for a later time on this journal). The time, effort and money involved in trying to avoid the inevitability of paying traffic tickets and/or surcharges would be much better spent in working towards solving the underlying tickets/surcharges. The only way around paying all those fines/fees is to be truly indigent and unable to pay and to then go through the process of declaring indigency and having fines/fees reduced as a result of that. I believe that approach would be a much more reasonable and efficient way to get back to being able to drive legally in Texas for the vast majority of those cases.

The more common way for people to become in the position of applying for an occupational license is to have been arrested for a DWI or other drug/alcohol related driving offense. In Texas, most of the time when someone is detained for DWI or suspicion of DWI, their Texas DL is not returned to them and is suspended. Later there will be a DPS administrative hearing determining what becomes of that license, but in the meantime, the person arrested has no way to drive legally. Often they will come to my office a day or two following the arrest to attempt to get an ODL so they can go to work, etc.

Regardless of why someone is applying for a ODL, here are some of the things an ODL is and some of the things it isn't.
An ODL is a temporary permit to drive and this permit is conditional on terms outlined by the Judge's granting the issuance of an ODL. Terms may include alcohol counseling, restrictions on geographical areas, on vehicles an ODL holder may drive (may be limited to vehicles equipped with an Ignition Interlock System or other provisions) and will definitely have defined times of day (not more than 12 hours out of any 24 hour period). An ODL is usually issued for one year or less. Anything beyond that must be specifically authorized by the Judge's order and the maximum is two years. An ODL holder is required to carry a load of paperwork with him or her at all times when driving and may also be required to keep a driving log that can be investigated at any time by law enforcement or the court. There also may be other provisions beyond those mentioned here.
An ODL is not a regular driver's license. An ODL cannot be used as a CDL replacement. An ODL holder's paperwork and driving activities are subject to the scrutiny of the court. Any violation of any provision of the ODL order results in the possible immediate termination of an ODL.

OK, that covers the basics of what all this is and who it is for.

If you've gotten this far along reading this and would like a paper handout from our JP Court walking you through steps, please come to my office in the Presidio County Courthouse, 3rd Floor, SW corner M-F 8-5 and we will happily give you a 6 page handout with tips and general procedures to follow. Below is a slightly shorter version of what we have compiled in-house, with some of my observations and opinions added.

Now, if you or someone you know has been told to look into applying for an Occupational Driver's License, here are the steps this Court requires. These are steps that are comply with current rules as of 2015. Some courts may issue orders granting an ODL with slightly different parameters or steps. This journal attempts to inform the readers of how to go about applying for one in this JP Court.

First Step: Determine your true driver's license status with DPS. It is possible that you may only need to reinstate your license in some cases. The surprisingly easy website to use is www.texas.gov/driver 

Second Step: Print proper Court forms for both the Petition for Occupational Driver's License asking the Court to issue an order and also the Order for Occupational Driver's License. These forms are available at www.TexasLawHelp.org
 Fill out the Petition as completely as possible before scheduling a hearing with the Judge. Provide some proof of essential need to drive like a letter from employer, school schedule, other affidavits.

Third Step: Go to www.texasonline.com  to purchase a copy of your Certified Abstract Driving Record. The cost is $22.00. You will need you DPS Audit number (the really long number at the bottom of your TDL) to use the online service. If your license has been picked up and you no longer have it, you will need to try to find a photocopy of your license somewhere or request a photocopy for the trooper who arrested you. If none of this works out, you will have to follow the instructions on getting your driving record through the mail, which will take 3-4 weeks and cost $20.
This step is super frustrating since DPS requires your driving record to apply for an Occupational License and most people no longer have their physical license in their possession once the need for an ODL arises. Requiring the DPS audit number (which nobody knows) instead of other more accessible information such as a SS# or other vital stats is another example of needless governmental red tape, and I hope they change their policy eventually.

Fourth Step:  Acquire SR-22 INSURANCE. This is a special, very expensive form of insurance that is now REQUIRED for ODLs. Unlike regular car liability insurance that covers specific vehicles, this insurance cover you, the individual (now classified as high-risk since your license was revoked or suspended). If you allow this insurance to lapse at any time during which you hold an ODL, the ODL will automatically be revoked by DPS as the insurance companies are required to report any lapse in coverage immediately. Some insurance companies will cancel your policy if you let them know you are now going to have to go to SR-22 coverage. there are insurance companies that specialize in SR-22 policies and there is a last-resort state insurance pool. Either way, your payments on an SR-22 policy are probably going to be similar in size to a car payment every month.

Fifth Step: File you papers with the Court and make an appointment for a hearing date. My policy is generally to try to push your application through as quickly as possible to get your situation resolved. If you comply with the terms set above and provide reasonable proof of needing to drive, I will almost certainly issue the Court Order for an ODL. Be sure to bring the $41.00 Court Cost Fee. Cash or money order made out to Presidio County Justice of the Peace. Bring everything required above with you. Incomplete applications will not be approved. If you are not satisfied with the conditions, you have the option to file paperwork in County Court or District Court. If you reside and/or your infraction was in another County, you have the option to try to get an ODL in that County as well. If you neither reside or had your incident that led to your suspension/revocation in Presidio County, you will need to file it in the respective County with jurisdiction.

Sixth Step: Come to your hearing ON TIME and be prepared to answer questions. If your petition is approved by the Judge, you will receive TWO Certified Copies of your ODL paperwork from the Court. One of those sets of copies will be submitted BY YOU to DPS and one of those sets of copies will serve as your temporary ODL permit until DPS processes the order. The entire set of papers and anything else required by the Court such as a driving log MUST be carried in any vehicle at any time the approved petiitoner is driving and must be surrendered to law enforcement or the Court upon demand.

Seventh Step: MAIL IN YOUR PAPERWORK to DPS, Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested with a check made out to DPS for $10.00 for the Occupational License Fee and a check for a DPS Reinstatement Fee you will owe (usually $125.00). find out what you owe at www.texas.gov/driver
Mail all items together to Texas DPS Enforcement and Compliance Service P.O. Box 4087, Austin, TX 78773-0320.  DPS processing can take more than 45 days and your paperwork which allows you to drive without a DPS issued ODL Card is only good for 45 days from issuance. This is why it's the best idea to immediately mail in your paperwork as soon as you receive it. If it takes longer than 45 days to get it back, you may not drive until you have received it. Violations of ODL rules are Class B Misdemeanors and you will go to jail if caught. After you receive everything back from DPS, you still must keep your original paperwork with you at all times you drive. I find this to be somewhat redundant, but these are the rules.


Still sound OK? Not so fast- people with previous arrests (not including an arrest that may have just occurred and resulted in this situation on its own) will have a 90 day waiting period before being eligible to receive an ODL. For previous DWI convictions, the waiting period is 180 days. For multiple convictions the waiting period is one year. Also, if your license was suspended or revoked for Failure to Pay Child Support, you are not eligible for an ODL. Same with people whose licenses became invalid for physical or mental issues.

Lastly, I find that the vast majority of people who are sent to jail in Presidio County are in jail for one of two things; Possession of Marijuana, less than 2oz (Class B MIS) or Driving While License Invalid (Class B MIS). Most of the DWLI charges are a result of failing to comply/pay DPS Surcharge Program Fees. I have always thought this program and its onerous fees assessed after the resolution of tickets exemplify the worst of "no new taxes" State Policy by tacking on fees (not "taxes", Texas!) to everyday procedures. These types of policies inordinately affect the lower and lower income working classes who cannot afford the extra financial burden. The added insult of making failure to pay these fees result in jailable offenses creates a de facto debtors prison situation for those affected. It's shameful and unproductive, I believe, and clogs our jails and prisons with people who really don't belong there. Right now, so many are behind the eight ball or have had a language/understanding barrier regarding the Surcharge Program that Legislators are beginning to talk seriously about a program overhaul. Don't hold your breath, though, as the mountain of "free money" that goes into the General Fund from this program will discourage meaningful reform.

That being said, if you are behind or underwater on surcharges in the DPS Surcharge Program, educate yourself on potential options by reading about the Surcharge Indigency/Incentive Program at www.txsurchargeonline.com

Best of luck, and I hope you found this article informative. Feel free to share this information or provide feedback by leaving a comment. Any non-anonymous relevant comments, positive or negative, will be published. Anonymous comments will not be published.

D. Beebe