Thursday, January 14, 2016

Presidio County Commissioners Court Meeting 1/12/2016 9 AM, Marfa, county courthouse

Here are my notes from the Jan 2016 commissioners court meeting.

Presidio County Commissioners Court 1/12/2016 9 AM Marfa

All present

Public comments:

Announcements from County Judge and Commissioners
Judge Guevara says that last PIPA meeting in Presidio Dec 8. Recaps results from that meeting. 
TXDOT meeting Dec 14 in Presidio. Progress made. Environmental permit still not acquired. Need that before Presidential Permit application submitted. 
Dec 15th Homeland Security came and did an asset inventory on grant items. Inventory went well, a couple of radios not located but everything else there.
We have some time to locate those items. Dec 18th Stonegarden meeting. Confirmed that all of 2014 grant monies will not be expended. Funds will be reallocated to other counties that can use them. 
Still frozen from Harvester grants. Until Harvester grants cleared up, opened up,  things are still up in the air regarding whether we owe them money for reimbursements of fraudulently spent grant funds.
Dec 21st- conference with TCEQ, TDA in reference to the Candelaria water system. Someone must supervise and have a Class D license. Commissioner Hernandez was tat Stormy Noble is here to possibly help out. Who is collecting water system money, other issues need to be addressed. 
Older folks on the board want to retire. Stormy is looking at repairs, has done some wiring and plumbing work. Says control panel that runs the whole system is outdated, in bad repair. Will start chlorinating water tomorrow. Control panel will have to be replaced or repaired. Around $2500 for panel, not including labor from a qualified electrician. Parts and labor thus far have run around $2800 for work already done.
Chlorinator has been broken for a long time. Will be up running tomorrow. Hernandez says that Bloomberg in Ruidosa has been hand-chlorinating water there. Story is willing to get Class D license, Bloomberg is also willing to get his for Ruidosa system. 
Also, system needs new water meters, not enough to serve the community, some people are tapping into system directly.
Stormy is willing to work for "whatever's fair" on the system. He says that once the system is fixed up, the maintenance on it will be pretty easy. 
Judge asked the state if there were grant monies available to pay a system overseer. State said no, those monies need to come from water bills. Hernandez says that right now the system is broken and people down there don't know what they're drinking. Would like to have Stormy fix up the system, get his certification, and then be the overseer of the system. Hernandez recommends this to the court and other commissioners agree. Hernandez will visit with Stormy and the water board tomorrow with regard to this plan. Hopefully the grant the county is applying for will help out as well. 
Judge received a not from the FERC that they have approved the pipeline construction and do not see a problem with the environmental. 
Judge says that holidays went smoothly as far as emergency management. No major issues, weather events.

Item 5- courthouse dome proposed re-opening.
Jim White placed on agenda, says we have security now, can do this.
Steve Marquez will supervise. Friday's are best since courts are not usually open on Fridays here. Can revisit hours and expand them later.
Hernandez says it's a good start.
Judge says that Spring break is coming up, she would like to see the number of days per week expanded from proposed. Explains that during busy times there is a huge demand from tourists. 
Hernandez proposes to start with this and later try to add hours to the schedule.
White agrees, stresses that Constable Marquez has other duties that he has to do, will consult with him. 
Loretto Vasquez proposes that people be able to make appointments with constable to see the dome on days when constable is not busy. Vasquez was asking about a waiver of liability possibly to be signed. John Fowlkes says that signs, waivers etc could help, but nothing has yet happened. Stairs are the most dangerous item. Very steep and shallow. Judge asks for John's recommendation. John says that is is good to have a waiver, etc, but that in actuality the insurance company would decide whether the waiver could reduce (but not eliminate) liability, damages. Possibility of a child falling is greatest danger. There has been a pattern of injuries on those staircases. Vasquez makes a motion to have a waiver for people to sign as part of the system.
Sam Cobos says there may be some structural concerns with regard to having more than five or so people up there. Says the Presidio County Historical commission is willing to help at some point.
Windows have been secured, there are bolt locks on the three Windows that are able to be opened for summertime heat relief, emergency exit to roof...
Cobos endorses an escort system. Perhaps use historical commission to help during spring break, other busy times. 
White makes motion to pass original proposal with sign in sheet and possibility for flexibility during spring break, other busy times based on Judge's and constable's judgment. Hernandez agrees and seconds. Vasquez confirms that sign in would be a liability form. Unanimous.

Item 6-
Discussion only- open carry with regard to courthouse and courthouse annex.
All counties have been advised by Jim Allison, attorney, to continue current policies on arms carrying in courthouse. White motions to table until open carry measures make their way through the courts system. Discussion only item

Item 7- item stating that all bills and invoices be mailed and or submitted to treasures office immediately for payment.
.White asks why bills would be coming to dept heads instead of directly to treasurer. Frances Garcia says that it happens, that is the way it's been for years. Judge uses Verizon bills as an example. Judge says that it would be better is all bills went to treasurer. White asks auditor Patty Roach if bills should come directly to treasurers. Patty says yes, they should all come directly to Treasurer's office. White says that we should not be paying bills that don't go directly to treasurer. Hernandez asks Patty R how this can happen. Patty says that this is likely that this has developed over many years, practices from the past just carrying forward to today. Hernandez mentions that treasurers office should get the bills and ask questions if any to dept heads. Sam Cobos, facility manager, says that he understands that after getting a PO he receives invoice, then he gives it to treasurer to expedite payment to vendor directly. France's Garcia says that's different, since he is getting it directly to treasurer for immediate payment. Problem lies with bills incurring late fees, etc from not being forwarded to treasurer quickly. Judge Guevara makes a motion to require all dept heads to take the necessary steps to ensure that all bills be mailed directly to treasurers office and that treasurer will be point of contact. Unanimous

Item 8- comp time with regard to holiday comp time payments to employees, specifically Sheriff's office members. Judge clarifies that item is on agenda because employees are asking to be paid for comp time over and above max hours allowed. Deputy Pablo Olivas chimes in and clarifies that for Dec 25 time period, comp time hours were subtracted for hrs worked and that brought this issue to the forefront of conversation.
Judge says that policy needs to be changed possibly, but that audit needs to be complete before anything happens. 
Auditor Patty Roach says that they are working on time sheet audits, and that holiday pay issue is being looked at. She says we have problems with the policy, including that deputies are not stipulated to be paid a holiday bonus, although that has been done in the past. She would like to finish the audit and address all time sheet problems at once. She sees issues and points of view, particularly with Sheriff's office complaint regarding comp time holiday payments.
White says it looks like we don't have Anouilh info right now, and that item 9 is connected to this and both should be tabled so problems can be addressed and gotten right the first time. Judge asks Patty Roach when her estimation of the audits compilation is. Patty says she hopes most of it will be done by the next commissioners meeting. Wants to have it done, understands the perceived urgency. Very complex issues here, much more complex that originally thought. Judge asks Patty if policy does not allow for comp time during holidays for sheriff's office and jail staff. Current policy is confusing and has not been enforced in the past. Holiday bonus is in controversy. Extra pay over hours for deputies is not set up, but is for jailers. 
Deputy Olivas says that it does not specifically state that deputies are not singled out, it is for all county employees minus jail personnel. Patty says it is unclear and difficult to apply
Sheriff Dominguez is here, and is ready to speak, he says that he has given the commissioners a handout explaining how it has been done in the past and how he expects deputies should and have been treated. Requests more deputies to help. Says all this could have been avoided if they had more help, but since that didn't happen, this is where we are. Asks for commissioners understanding in resolving this issue. 
Patty says supplement to policy was adopted June 2014. Katie Sanchez says she believes that there was a Stonegarden requirement to add item to policy.
Deputy Velasquez says that not only have they not been compensated but they have had hours taken away. Katie disagrees. Hernandez asks who takes the hours away? Velasquez says possibly treasurer's office. Frances Garcia denies removing earned hours, but they had to revise hours after being told by auditor and OMB that bonus would not be included.
Judge says that for sure hrs worked will be paid and that is not the issue. Let's be clear. 
Jim White motions to table and asks for cooperation between auditor and Sheriff's Office to resolve this together. Items 8 and 9.
Aranda asks about audit. Patty clarifies it's an audit of all county employees, not just jail/Sheriff. Motion seconded by Hernandez. Unanimous. 

Item 10- discussion with action to determine which depts/ organizations should be required to report quarterly instead of monthly. Auditor has provided a form and list of recommendations.
OMB- Monthly- facilities manager- monthly, treasurers report- monthly, capital projects- monthly, airports manager- monthly, clerk's office- monthly, tax assessor- monthly, JP 1, JP2- monthly, Jail, -monthly, 
Vasquez asks Sheriff about transport trips regarding jail, Sheriff and staff have left meeting at this point. Judge taking about jail transport fees, some should go to county and not just jailers for maintenance, van costs, etc. Hernandez asks about jail committee. Includes White and Hernandez, says committee should meet. White recommends Loretto Vasquez be on committee since he knows about jail standards from Border Patrol career. 
Sheriff's office- monthly
County atty- quarterly
Agrilife- monthly, already receive it
Go down list quickly, all recommended to be quarterly reports. 
Golf course report is part of facilities manager's report.
Judge makes motion to approve list as called out. Seconded be Hernandez
Unanimous. Patty Roach clarifies that item included funds distribution schedule and form approval. Court revisits rest of item. Judge amends motion to require all depts to give reports as agreed by commissioners. All funds to outside agencies will be distributed on a quarterly basis and that all outside agencies are required to use new report format from auditor

Item 11- elections at Food Bank building in Presidio. Election Day is March 1st. For not currently being distributed. Early voting for two weeks prior to March 1 st. Dates not clarified. Unanimous

Item 12- TAC Wellness program- $450 has been earned from TAC through incentives. Virgie Pallarez explains health incentive challenges for employees. Patty Roach clarifies how to write these funds into the budget. Not an emergency, the option to list this is to make a note to earmark these new funds as restricted for wellness. County atty Fowlkes says his opinion is that a line item transfer from general fund could be made as non-emergency since it is such a small amount. Discussion regarding how this money can be properly accounted for continues... Judge recommends to table until more information is gathered. Aranda moves, white seconds. Unanimous

Item 13- grading El Paso street and Ave H (S of RR tracks, N of 90/67) Eva Gonzales' property. Wants paving, road access. Says she is surrounded by Tumble In, has gotten permission from neighbor Wilbourn Elliot to use his access to D street which accesses HWY 90/67. Aranda says he has discussed this with Ruben Carrasco. Looking at options with regard to county's possibility to help. Would like to see some written permission. Gonzales wants county to grade El Paso St, H St, D St. Never been cut or graded historically. Exist only on old plat maps.
Ruben Carrasco presents that he has asked Mrs Gonzales to provide licensed survey of plats. Surveyor claims that in order to get to the highway private lands need to be crossed. TXDOT owns part of property. Different claims, Ruben says he cannot build on private land with county resources. Very complicated, surveyor recommends going over all this with county attorney. Judge asks about clarification of recent Constitutional amendment to allow private citizens to reimburse counties for roadwork. John Fowlkes says county does not qualify as far as population count goes. Gonzales argues. Fowlkes says that current census is qualifier. Regardless, Gonzales would have to reimburse county even if work was done. Ruben clarifies that El Paso St does not have any access from any public road East/West. It is landlocked. For road to be opened Gonzales would have to go to various agencies, landowners, county, to get easement access. 
Fowlkes says county cannot grade this. Gonzales needs to go before district court to receive legal access, and once she does, can come before county to grade road access. County cannot fight private land battles for citizens. Fowlkes says she need to file for an easement with a private atty in District Court. Following that, the county may be able to assist but not until then. Not legal for county to deal with property with unknown owners. Gonzales argues about platting, roads, commissioners duties to citizens. Fowlkes says it should be easy to get easement order from District Court. Ruben offers to help. More discussion over details... Hernandez moves to table. Seconded by Judge Guevara. Unanimous.

Item 14- discussion to approve costs for water plan submitted by RGCOG. Administrative costs of approx $62,000. 500 plus dollars of county monies for next two years. $529.84 for this year. Mandated by State, not in budget. Aranda motions to approve. White asks where money comes from. General fund Aranda. unanimous.

Item 15- Administrative Session. 10 minute break at 11:04 AM
Reconvene at 11:20

Auditor's Report- Patty Roach
Updating audit findings. Inmate trust funds, jail commissary funds. Patty has info from jail, ready to input. General news regarding accounts reconciliations. Purchasing policy has been reviewed by outside auditor. Looks good to him. Capital assets review, straightening out problems. Progress is continuing on accounts reconciliations, FY 2016 work. Grant reconciliations are being done by OMB. Hopefully outside audit submission will be on time this year. Looks like it should be. Has not been in past. 
White asks about Stonegarden audit and last year's finding regarding PISD officers overtime. Patty says that items still posted as money due back to the State from Presidio County since it was improper. Katie Sanchez says that state will be financial audit soon on those books and state will decide whether to ask for reimbursement of those funds that were improperly paid out to PISD "overtime" staff. Right now books reflect that those payments were not proper and money is owed back to State. 
Questions about comp time, bonus time policies, procedures. Patty so going over those. Policy will need to be rewritten, make it clear to everyone what it is. Patty wants redesign of time sheets, current one is not consistently filled out by employees in the same fashion. Also will have to look at past errors re payment and commissioners will have to make decisions about how to compensate for these liabilities. Lots of varying errors and discrepancies. Not one person's fault as to how these mistakes have been made. Patty will also visit with TAC on how to make this standardized, right the first time. Decisions with regard to limits of comp time will be addressed. People are to be paid for time worked, by law, regardless of policy. Supervisors need to be trained appropriately when new systems for compensation are put into place. 
Accepted unanimously.

Office of Treasurer- Frances Garcia. Says she received nearly 2 million dollars since last meeting. 

Office of Management and Budget: Katie Sanchez; paid out 1,280,167.00
Good bit back to jail account for US Marshals paid invoices received. Submitted renege and expense sheets for each department to commissioners. Through Dec 31st completed. White asks if any dept is too far ahead of spending for this point in the FY. Katie says that there are a few one time expenses that throw things out of whack, but overall everything is looking to be on track. Jail has expended more than usual, but that is because many repairs are being done right now. White mentions that jail report reflects a falling off of prisoners from near 90 to below 50. Yesterday's totals were 67. Takes over 57, 58 to not lose money. Concern among commissioners re occupancy. 
Hernandez would like to know details on just how many it takes to make, break even or lose money. Patty says it's based on a few variables. Judge Bishop suggests looking back at last three months and doing an analysis of costs. 

County/district Clerk. 6514.50 collected. 635.80 state fees. 900.90 district fees.

Facilities manager/ golf course report: Sam Cobos. Report submitted in writing, passed. 

JP 1- skipped for now

Judge would like to see Capital Projects report: Ruben Carrasco. Reports that everything went well during these holidays, roads in good shape. Report accepted. 
Chispa Rd. Commissioner Aranda says road is in good shape, plenty of people in the NW area of road in county using it.

Airports manager report: Chase Snodgrass says that today's meeting times are a little different. Meeting today at 4:00 in Marfa. Presidio airport meeting tomorrow at 8:30 AM at Presidio airport.

Tax Assessor's Report: submitted in writing

Jp1: $17,901 for Dec. Judge Beebe stated that procedures regarding Sheriff's Office ticket blanks has been resolved. Now receiving tickets regularly from Sheriff's Office. 

JP2: $20,000 plus for Dec. Have processed two inquests thus far this year. Judge Bishop presents.

Presidio Fire report has been received. Presidio EMS report has not been received. 
Aranda says we need to let them know they need to send their report. 
White makes a motion to accept the Presidio fire report and note there is no EMS report. Judge seconded. Unanimous. 

Jail report: submitted in writing. Accepted

Sheriff's Office report: not submitted, no Sheriff's Office members here. White says that commissioners need to write down what to require in the report that must be submitted. Judge Guevara says that part of that report needs to describe how comp time is and/or will be dealt with. Aranda mentions that Sheriff's office is the only one accumulating comp time. They now have five total, Frances Garcia says even the reserves are getting time. Including PISD reserves-three officers. All accumulating more comp time, working. White says that we need to start requiring them to submit a report and a plan to remedy this situation.
Aranda says that he hears rumors that jailers, deputies want to leave because they are not being paid enough. We already have them a good paying raise several years ago. Katie and Frances says they are being paid well, Aranda says that if they want to leave they can,  they are being paid well compared to other workers in the county. 
Frances says the Sheriff lied about the reason for four jail workers leaving; two got fired, one left for better pay and one just left for personal reasons. Sheriff said they all quit for better pay. 

Discussion regarding outside agencies which have not submitted reports. Include Presidio library, probation services. Approved reports except for those. Some may not receive funding, as per commissioners court rules regarding disbursements to agencies and reporting requirements. Will write Presidio EMS a letter to get theirs in. 
White motions, Vasquez seconds. Unanimous

County bills and expenses:
Patty Roach would like line item transfers first.
Yes, Judge says, since some bills are contingent on line item transfers.

Line item transfers:
Judge's office: office supplies to Hill County software for yearly computer program fees
Jail repairs: multiple amounts for multiple items. Mostly small, no surprises. 
Hernandez moves to accept all line item transfers.
Motion made, but other issues brought up including tow hearing judgment for Sifuentes family in JP 1 court on tow hearing. Sending on civil hearing was Sheriff's office/County. Judgment was issued in favor of plaintiff for $435.00 of $700.00 total collected by Sheriff's Office for tow of car from Cordero's trailer park unattended death. Inquest of subject had been handled by Judge Guevara. 
Sheriff refuses to issue line item transfer for payment of tow hearing settlement. Second commissioners court meeting where Sheriff had been asked to submit transfer form but did not. Judge Beebe said that at the end of the hearing there were no objections to the settlement from either Sheriff or Sifuentes family and that County Attorney had been there and had no issues anyway. Hearing process had been preceded by personal issues between Sheriff's office and Mr. Sifuentes, as they had argued about status of car, tow, ownership, tow bill, etc. 
Judge Guevara recounted that the deceased person had not committed a crime and that no crime had been committed as far as anyone knows. Car was impounded by law enforcement (Texas Rangers assisting Sheriff's office investigation of death) because of blood on car. Car was on private property rented by deceased at Cordero's trailer park and was parked legally. Family had already suffered death, and was trying to retrieve deceased's belongings. Why put them through this? Judge says if she had the decision she would have refunded all fees to family, since tow was no fault of their own and they are grieving. 
Beebe says he understands that point but had to go by letter of the law in the tow hearing and that means that family is responsible for storage fees beyond notification of release of vehicle from investigation. Those fees totaled the $435 in judgment for plaintiff.
Beebe asks again what can be done since judgment was a court order and nobody appealed the judgment up to County court level within time allotted. Judge Guevara and Jim White say that failure to sign line item transfer constitutes contempt of court since it is a court order. Beebe asks if he should charge Sheriff with contempt of court. White says yes, that's what you have to do. Beebe says yes, I'll do it but I would rather not since I would prefer to be able to keep living in this town. General laughter. Some discussion regarding that possible scenario. Beebe asks commissioners and auditor Roach if there is a way to find another solution to this since he would rather not do this and send Constable Marquez (not in room, he is working as bailiff for District Court today upstairs in main courtroom) to arrest Sheriff. Perhaps send a courtesy letter to Sheriff first. Patty Roach goes to look at methods. Talk of commissioners making a line  item transfer on behalf of County. Frances Garcia confirms that the $700 received from Sifuentes was deposited into abandoned vehicle fund. Commissioners believe they can make that transfer. Patty checking. More discussion from commissioners with laughter about how they would rather put Beebe on the spot. 
Commissioner Vasquez asks Beebe whether he believes Sifuentes should receive all $700 instead of just $435. Beebe says he believes that Sifuentes family was satisfied with the judgment and will be happy just to finally get the money they were awarded at the hearing. Hearing was Dec 21st. Patty comes back and says that commissioners can do a line item transfer from abandoned motor vehicle fund. Commissioners opt for that option. Frances Garcia says check has been made out since the day of the hearing, ready to mail. Commissioners approve unanimously.

Bills: office space in Brewster County for District Court. Portion of space paid for by County. Cell phones for certain officials brought up. Commissioner Hernandez asks for cell phone audit/ list of people who have cell phones paid for by County. 
Virgie says that phone allowances have been paid and approved, but she doesn't recall any elected officials being approved for individual phones. Talk about Big Bend Telephone providing service in the future. Katie Sanchez says we're paying between one dollar and a dollar fifty per minute for long distance. OMB is working on a long distance audit. Hernandez says that all these little things add up, between phones and electric bills, etc. we really need to reduce and eliminate these things. 
Cheryl Calvert is working on phone issues. Deputies have cell phones, paid for by County, won't give out numbers. Commissioners not happy. Hernandez says the system is being abused and we need to stop it. 
Mona Garcia, citizen, comments as an observer, wants the County to call AT&T and read then the riot act. $100,000 a year for phone calls?! This is ridiculous. Commissioners agree. Frances says they have put in a call with a protest, waiting on a reply.
Bills approved.

Minutes from prior meeting. Sent via email. 
Beebe asks for minutes to be emailed to him as well. No objection from County Clerk or commissioners. Discussion re: minutes being posted on County website following approval. Likely required. Some discussion. No objections. 

Adjourn at 12:45 PM

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