Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Notes from Presidio County Commissioners Court meeting 8/25/2015

Here are my notes from today's meeting in Presidio of Commissioners a Court. Lots of things were moving fast during this meeting. I attempted to be as complete as possible in my notes.

Presidio County Commissioners Court 8/25/2015
All present.
9:09 AM convene.
Public comments:
County Judge's comments:
Judge has been working on budget. Met with Mike Atwood from silver mine. Pipeline is proposing to go alongside the mine. Mine will ask for a route further from the mine. Mine plans to reopen at some point. Atwood says if they do not reach an agreement with pipeline, county will have to hire an arbiter. Safety a concern regarding mining, explosives, etc. Fowlkes says he's not aware of any requirements for county to intervene, get an injunction, etc. Says mine may be trying to save money and insert county into situation. Aranda and Hernandez express that they would rather see the county not get involved. Vasquez agrees. White mentions safety as an issue. Hernandez references transmission line construction and that some owners of property couldn't be found. District judge was involved, eminent domain proceeding. Judge asks for Fowlkes to do some research on situation.
Budget- getting numbers together, getting together with Patty Roach tomorrow to try to finalize. Calendar: Sept 1st- if we raise tax rate beyond effective rate, 2 tax rate hearings. First proposed for Sept 8 following commissioners court meeting. Second for the 16th. County clerk clarifies that budget must be adopted in Marfa, public hearings may be able to be held in Presidio. Judge asks for feedback on budget workshop dates from commissioners. Proposing Sept 3, Sept 16. Attempt to adopt budget on Sept 22nd in Marfa. Aranda mentions that tax rate and budget are inherently linked, each penny added to tax rate is about $45,000 in budget funds. Tax rate divided into M&O and debt service. Judge has estimated revenue numbers in hand, proposing pay raise for county employees. Waiting on OMB for rest of numbers, debt service, etc. effective rate for this year is approx .59. Last year was .63. Try to meet somewhere in between. Judge thanks dept heads for completing their individual budgets. Asset day went well for county; learning experience, lots of work, cooperation was appreciated. Thanks employees, dept heads. Reads from audit report on page 71; references material weakness in assets, repeat finding since 2007. Capital assets have not been maintained on statement of position. Asset day's purpose is to remedy this situation. Auditor has made this very clear. Progress is being made, thanks again from the Judge. Next asset day will be soon, auditor will be there. Judge asks for cooperation, commends progress.
Commissioners comments:
Aranda mentions that City of Presidio has annexed a lot of property in the last few weeks. Land east of city, including areas where county had proposed water improvements. Waste water treatment plant, Pueblo Nuevo areas, city will have to tie these folks in. Also expanded to the north. Ruben Carrasco weighs in that city has expanded ETJ by an extra mile around the whole city in addition to in-city expansion. Carrasco has been meeting with city regarding maintaining roads for a while. White and Aranda attended a meeting with him and the city regarding same.
White mentions that he has met with Republic waste disposal to get a roll off dumpster for Shafter; illegal dumping now happening there since they don't have a way to easily dispose of trash. Hernandez mentions that every small community needs one, trash is a problem, the small communities should pay for it themselves. White says that these small colonias will not pay for them themselves. Hernandez brings up slippery slope, expenses, larger cities pay for it themselves, smaller should pay as well. White brings up that the reality is that they currently so not pay, won't be willing to pay. Aranda weighs in- agrees, but problematic situation in general. Possibly somewhere around $5000-$6000 a year for Shafter service. Aranda asks for more research, possible pilot program until people get their own act together in these smaller areas.
Executive Session regarding Sheriff's Office. Sheriff wants it to be in open session. Judge asks whether court has to have open session. Fowlkes says it's the judge's decision. Sheriff references statute. Hernandez asks for open session. Fowlkes says open meeting will not violate anything in this case. More debate. Judge asks to table this matter for now. Fowlkes will do a bit of research, come back. White asks if it's OK to have open session when it's on agenda as executive session. Judge asks Sheriff for a meeting, says it's nearly impossible to schedule a meeting, Sheriff does not return calls. Judge asks for a meeting. White says go ahead and have it now, he doesn't mind. Fowlkes references statute, says that discussion regarding employees/public officer is OK. Hernandez asks to have this occur now. Judge requests table motion again. Hernandez says ask Sheriff now, let's get to it. Fowlkes says his opinion is that this can occur, no problem. Judge says we can continue if people really want to.
Hernandez wants to know who requested item. Judge says Aranda. Aranda clarifies that he did, but it's for general discussion regarding Sheriffs Office
White begins. Says that auditor found problems with Stonegarden, capital assets, and that Sheriff's office has has tremendous animosity towards Commissioners Court and that he finds it to be a failure of leadership on the Sheriff. Let his chief deputy and others get out of hand. Admonishes Sheriff. Aranda says this is extreme, doesn't appreciate Sheriff's office directly attacking Commissioners Court. Says this is unnecessary, embarrassing. Videotaping the judge, audiotaping, extremely rude behavior, no communication. Ticket to Sam Cobos in a county truck for parking too far away from curb at courthouse. Aranda says we don't want or need this drama. Commissioners have nothing against the deputies or sheriff, just want cooperation, respect Presidio County. If someone does not cooperate, we have a problem, now. We must fix this problem. White says Sheriff's Office must cooperate, we are dedicated to fixing audit. Vasquez says that he agrees, we must fix audit, cooperate, be open, correct mistakes. Aranda says there are always two sides to a story, we don't always know both,but when we see and hear certain things, we need to take corrective action. We must express concern, ask questions, need communication. Judge asks Sheriff directly why she was called by the city with regard to Sheriff telling administrator that judge said to take the city truck to Vizcaino and that Sheriff couldn't have it anymore. This is not true. Why did she have to explain this to the City Administrator? This truck does not and never belonged to county. Hernandez asks for Sheriff to explain. Sheriff says he'll talk after Commissioners finish talking, not before. Hernandez asks Sheriff to explain. White asks Sheriff why he has this same attitude. Sheriff says he'll talk when he wants to; after Commissioners are done. Hernandez tells Sheriff that we must cooperate, we must move forward. Says this is a two way street and that everyone is at fault. Judge objects. Says this is a one way street. Hernandez and judge get into it a bit regarding this statement. Hernandez still asking Sheriff for a response. Sheriff quiet. Hernandez elaborates on the importance of communication, says this is the number one issue for county right now. Says everyone has some blame in this case. Judge says she does not carry blame, she has been working hard to communicate with Sheriff, he does not return phone calls, messages. Back and forth between Hernandez and judge on communication issue. Silence from Sheriff.
Fowlkes asks about success of asset day. Judge says it was mostly a big success, some refining needed, a few things still not inventoried. First time since judge started working for county 27 years ago that this has been done. Aranda says that in the past each elected official took care of their own inventory, submitted it to treasurer. Has not happened in a while. Judge says this method is better, more communication between depts, cities, etc.
sheriff ready to speak.
Apologizes for not returning phone calls.
Sheriff says that all transactions have been and will be videotaped, not apologizing for that, sorry she took it personally, cameras a fact of life in public these days.
He has the right to record.
Regarding inventory- they have complied, did everything. Where was road and bridge? Sheriffs office only one there at Vizcaino... Where was everyone else? Says he has been singled out, this needs to stop. Where are the keys to the vehicles?
White tries to provide an answer, Sheriff says he's not finished, no comments until he's done.
Sheriff says he has complied, commissioners still coming after him.
White says he will answer questions from Sheriff. Says those vehicles and Shanna...(Sheriff objects to bringing Shanna into conversation since she is not here). White says that he talked to Shanna and she said that Sheriff said commissioners can keep it all, sheriff doesn't need it anymore, confrontational tone. Sheriff asks if conversation was taped. White says no, Sheriff says then it didn't necessarily happen. White gets hot. Sheriff back off a little, then accuses commissioners of being totally against him. Judge and Frances weigh in- witnessed part of this exchange between SO and White and back White's version.
Joel Nunez responds to criticism from judge regarding things said, promised. Says that Sheriffs Office is responsible for jail success, take the blame when things are bad, get no credit for making the county money when things are good. Says that rules change, they have been working with the state to get the grants right, make things happen for the county. Says we need to fix communication problems, that everyone needs to get a little better at communications. Says that"new grant person" and himself had some miscommunication and need to get it together. Says that all parties need to communicate more, the Sheriff and he feel like they say the same things over and over again and nobody listens, and they get treated like they have not been in compliance. Asks why the two commissioners appointed to law enforcement committee do not help, cooperate. White says he agrees, says that he and Danny have been friends since way before all this, why can't we talk? Joel says that judge Hunt and Sheriff came to an agreement to pass everything through commissioners court. Settled on giving surplus vehicles to individual commissioners, sheriff followed though on his side, why did they come back and go back on the deal? They have done their part, why is commissioners court going to reassign? They did all the work, did it right, good things for the county, have a tough job, see the worst in people out in the field, and why do they have to come here and get this treatment?
Aranda says that commissioners are trying to do things right, not trying to pick a fight. Clarifies that surplus vehicles are commissioners court's responsibility. Sheriff asks why do they want all the titles? Not state mandated... Judge says audit called for it, Sheriff says it's not mandated. Hernandez asks why there is a problem with the county having the titles? The vehicles are still here, what do you want? What is the problem? Aranda says that Sheriff has denied county employee assets when requested at his own discretion. Sheriff asks who got the vehicles? Name how many have not been gotten by the Sheriff's office through grants? Aranda says he gets the point. Aranda says that Commissioners want to continue Stonegarden, Sheriff says no, causes too many problems like this. White raises a point of order. Judge says she will call him later this afternoon. Sheriff thanks everyone and sits down.
Next item: courthouse security and bailiff officer.
Judge says there is zero security at courthouse, panic buttons do not work, DPS no longer there, windows do not lock. There is a courthouse security fund with over $130,000 in funds. Judge wants court to consider advertising and hiring a full time bailiff to be there. Sheriff asks to add his input. Judge clarifies that a motion must be made first. Judge says that a peace officer could also write tickets, she has provided a sample budget for this office. $36,000 plus benefits, full time security. Hernandez thinks it's not necessary, not money well spent, Sheriff is across the street. Judge brings up when she was threatened she was unable to get assistance from Sheriff, SO was too busy. White says that he is in support, funding is here. Vasquez asks if there is a vacant office. Judge says that only empty office is auditor's. Veterans service officer half office remains vacant. Aranda asks about Presidio security. Constable Coker is south county bailiff. Hernandez asks of this is in the budget. Judge says these funds must be used to courthouse security, collected from every fine in JP court, county court. Frances says that amount is separated from each ticket, has been accumulating, has not been used for years. Aranda asks how this can be a sustainable position if the fund has been building up? Hernandez says that there are more important things to spend money on. Fowlkes says it could be security cameras, other items. Judge says it could be spent of CopSync for elected officials in a panic situation. Hernandez asks where this idea came from? White says that in this era courthouse security is a priority. Hernandez says we already have the security there in the form of a sheriff, constables. Virgie also says that security officer can help Sheriffs office with service, assisting with tickets. DPS used to be there. Constable asks if discussion is open. Says that constable is mandated to be at JP court. Also mandated to serve process paperwork. Patrolling is optional but does this in Presidio. Asks for augmentation of constable's salary and add duties for that. Should be for both precincts. Current salary is $9000, would like to do more, have a larger salary, would not add to county burden with regard to benefits, equipment. Judge brings up that constables have to work additional jobs at that pay level. Sheriff says constable is responsible for JP COurt, but Sheriffs office is responsible for county court exclusively. Judge says it doesn't have to be Sheriff's Office, Sheriff says it has to be; all outside of JP court is in his jurisdiction. Fowlkes stands up for Marquez. Sheriff says it MUST be Sheriffs Office. Constable says that constables need to be rested equitably. Aranda asks if court can allocate money for both constables to do security in each building. Hernandez mentions that action need not be take. White agrees that court needs to hash this out, can be worked out in budget. Sheriff says he should get the budget dollars, it is his turf. White asks for legal clarification. Judge says it's OK to table. Judge advocates for a security officer for the courthouse, and that person could also write tickets for the county. White motions to table. Vasquez has a question. Person will be at courthouse- will he conduct traffic stops as well? Sheriff asks under whose commission would be be under? Aranda advocates for allocating some money, not full salary, money will last longer. Hernandez advocates for raising constable salaries by some amount. Tabled by court.
Local govt code item tabled as recommended by county atty
Refund fee monies for defendants. Fowlkes says county has been collecting too much money from defendants in pre trial settlements. Unknown to him that the limit was reduced to $500/max in 2007. Has collected $83,000; over by $27,000. Asks commissioners to approve refund plus 2% interest as per AG recommendation to include interest to people who overpaid. Money went to general fund, was supposed to be segregated into separate pre trial fund, was not. Hoping to locate everyone, get their monies back. Send notices, try to refund. Amounts from around $100-300 typically owed. Legislature changed law to $500 in 2007 to reduce pre trial diversions, in which state collects no money. State was looking for more convictions, more state monies collected. Brings up that Rodriguez questioned this last court, he was correct, but that defendants now will have fewer pre-trial diversions. Does not actually benefit clients in this case down the line. Monies would come out of general fund, as they were never deposit into a required designated fund solely to administer pre trial intervention activities. Frances says that there IS a separate pre trial fund, not a separate account, but segregated administratively. Unknown balance. Fowlkes believes that total payout will not exceed approx $15,000 after all is said and done. White makes motion to approve with interest set at 1%. $23,345.00 total before interest approved.
11:06 AM break.
9) Executive Session regarding airport personnel matter at 11:16 AM
10) 11:52 back into regular session
JP 2 report: Judge Bishop
8575 retained
7,172 disbursed
147,034 year to date
Capital projects:
Ruben Carrasco: nothing new other than annexation. Aranda asks about abandoned trailer in Marfa. Yes, working on that with Henry Campos, basically finished. Road complaints: pothole from Mr Chavez re pothole I'm Sal Si Puedes that City of Marfa excavated. Repaired this morning.
Airports manager: no report, executive session dealt with item. Chase thanks PMDD for funding for airport improvements. White asks for people to drive by and notice airport improvements in Presidio. New shade, power hookup for ambulance, seating, etc. accepted.
Presidential permit export tabled
Facilities manager: no action- for Marfa meeting.
Tax assessor report:
130928.98 total collected
38612.71 county portion
Commends Perdue on high collections.
Judge thanks Norma for help with budget and tax rate.
Line item transfers:
County judge office: from misc to office supplies- $9,682.00
county judge: equipment maint to office supplies for approx 190.00
County judge office: Equip maint to transportation: approx 250.00
Constable : from misc to fuel :49.00
Aranda makes motion to approve
Bills and expenses:
Drugstore: inmate medications, reimbursable if from out of county inmate
No other questions. Aranda makes motion, White seconds, approved
Adjourn at 12:07 PM

1 comment:

Gretel said...

Nothing excruciatingly boring about those south county meetings! Thank you.