Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Notes from Presidio County Commissioners Court Special Meeting August 23, 2016, 9 AM, Presidio.

Here are my notes for the special (regular) meeting yesterday in Presidio at the County Annex.

Presidio County Commissioners Court Special Regular Meeting, Tuesday August 23rd, 9 AM, Presidio County Annex Building, Presidio.

Some people thought the meeting was starting at 9:30, so we are starting a bit late...

Commissioners present: Eloy Aranda, Judge Cinderela Guevara, Loretto Vasquez, Lorenzo Hernandez, Jim White.

Air conditioning in the Annex is not working, Judge is looking to see if PISD will allow commissioners to use their meeting room.
Meeting called to order at 9:40. Judge announces that the budget meeting later today will be moved to the boardroom at PISD admin building. 

Public Comments:

Larry Lunsford and Jane Walker represent the golf course management group. 
Annette Gutierrez from Rio Grande Council of Governments.

Cheryl Calvert: reads a letter from Frances Garcia requesting two new computers for Treasurer's office. Old ones keep shutting off and losing data. 
Also requesting funding for mandatory training. $4300 requested for computers and installation.

Jane Walker: golf course. Expresses how much this project needs to be moving forward. She and her husband have built golf courses in the past, communication is a must. She is having a lot of trouble communicating with County Judge and other officials. She is worried that communications are breaking down. She has been able to express concerns with several commissioners who turned her calls. Please do not let this project fall through the cracks. Too many jobs are on the line, please do your best to continue. 

Larry Lunsford: 
Golf course. Addressing lack of communication. June 14 commissioners voted unanimously to explore project and put together a lease agreement. 
Since lease was submitted, group has not heard a word. 
Atty representing the County, Jim Allison, has not made contact. Citizens have been calling him, but he had no news regarding progress or even communication. 
Asking for the County to appoint a point person to deal with the group. Timeline is very important. They are on a tight timeline. Confident that lease agreement can be negotiated without a problem. There will be a push/pull and that's OK.
Knows that County Atty says that nothing can be done before the survey is complete. This is not true. We can definitely try to negotiate other points. Suggesting a special meeting between parties, hash out generals, then wait on the survey. 
Hernandez asks if county has a lease agreement. Judge says that she received a lease last week, but she wants to move forward at this point. Judge says she will address his question In her Judge's comments. Lunsford leaves the meeting directly after speaking.

Announcements from Judge and Commissioners:

Judge addresses golf course issues; says now that after nearly two years as of June 8 plans are being developed. Reminds commissioners that on June 14 court signed a letter of intent to move forward. 
Next county hired an attorney, Jim Allison, since John Fowlkes wanted to have outside counsel address this situation. Judge makes the point that the County has made progress and has not been trying to hold up the project. 
There was a big mix up on the date of a meeting with Mr Lunsford. Two meeting thus far with Judge. One at grocery store Judge called atty. Jim Allison says that nothing can be done before survey is turned in. Mix up on date was re: Sept 19 meeting between parties, confusion between parties. Lunsford thought it was August 19. Golf people showed up Aug 19, Allison was not here, and survey is not complete as it is. 
Judge gives a run-down on what occurred when August meeting did not happen as golf group thought it was to happen. Judge met informally with golf group atty last Thursday night. Judge has been advised by Allison not to talk about lease to golf party at this point. Judge met atty, and got to know him but did not discuss lease. 
Judge says that under Local Govt Code before a lease is considered County is obligated to publish notice twice in the paper before any lease is awarded. Notice must include a description of a metes and bounds survey. Survey must be completed before publication. When survey is completed the county publishes notice of intent to accept sealed proposals of any lease. Bid bond must be submitted with any proposal. Then commissioners court can accept or reject any lease. Performance bond recommended so that project is guaranteed to be finished. Judge would like for the public to understand that in no way is commissioners court opposed to the development of the golf course, but at the same time the commissioners must protect this asset and that this is a business transaction first. There is a PR side to projects like this, but there is also a legal and practical side to it that commissioners are obligated to protect and do properly. She urges commissioners to be sure this project is done right. Big project like this one should and needs to be done in a careful and considerate manner. We can wait on the survey, we hired a proper attorney, and between now and that time that we can do things properly as to legal requirements we will not communicate with the golf group guarding legal aspects. Judge will send proposed lease to other commissioners today. It is 45 pages. Atty will negotiate lease. Mr Allison is on standby right now in case we need a teleconference call. 
Hernandez says that his concern is not with the legal but with the lack of communication. He received many phone calls, had no answers, has  not even seen the lease. Feels bad he could not even comment to callers at all. 
Judge says that the fact that the meeting was rushed instead of Sept 19th county was not prepared to act or comment. Commissioners would have had more time to prepare. Judge says she likes the idea of having a committee to communicate with golf group, answer questions. She is not trying to avoid meeting with people. 
Hernandez wants to know when the county received the lease. Judge says it was either Wednesday or Friday. It was printed and placed onto her desk. 
Vasquez wants to know if judge has had a chance to discuss lease with atty. Judge says yes, atty wants to advise commissioners about the generals but first says he wants a survey. 
Hernandez asks why Lunsford has a difference of opinion on why we cannot move forward without a survey. Judge says she thinks we need to follow our own attorney's advice instead of a non-attorney from an outside party. Aranda says that we must follow the Texas Local Government Code. 
Hernandez says that there are two contradicting stories. Is this a matter of lack of communication. 
White says there is no contradiction; the County is bound by the Code. Hernandez agrees but he does not understand why there seems to be a misunderstanding.
Judge says that both attorneys understand what is needed; everything is clear. 
Hernandez says that according to the golf group in a meeting on Friday Jim Allison will not return calls, judge will not return calls. Judge says this is untrue. She has not received any calls during the day. Talks about how Virgie came over to get Judge out of her own house for an emergency meeting with golf group. Judge went,did not discuss lease agreement. She has always been open to meeting with Lunsford. The golf group's atty has never called her, this is just untrue.
White says that the golf course is in his precinct, he has never been contacted. 
Hernandez says he was playing golf and that's how he met with the group. Met at the golf course and they told him that they had scheduled a meeting with the Judge on Saturday.
Judge says that her phone was not working and atty Allison recommended not discussing any details. Judge did not meet with them that day. Judge says she will continue meeting with them but will not discuss legal issues. She does not appreciate the accusations of a hidden innuendo. They know what they have to do; they have to get that survey done. 
Vasquez asks if we can meet with Allison. judge says yes, but it's $200/hr plus travel. We do not need him here unless we are actually getting something done. Vasquez agrees. 
Allison is coming into town for Sept 13th for county Judge and commissioners conference at Lajitas. Can schedule a meeting with him at that point. 
By that time commissioners will have read the lease. 
Hernandez says it is his understanding that White, Fowlkes and the County Judge had a copy of the lease but he did not. White says that Hernandez has it in his email, if he would only check it. Hernandez acknowledges that.
End of topic.

County Auditor wrote a letter to the a city of Presidio to have a meeting regarding payments for services rendered for tax contract and dispatch services contract. 
Marco Baeza says it is more than likely that meeting will not happen; they want to consult with their City Attorney. Judge says that is unfortunate, a meeting was scheduled for 4:00 today. She wants to resolve this, disappointed that it may not happen. 

No commissioners announcements. 

Presentation by Annette Gutierrez on RGCOG solid waste grant contract, etc.
Texas Community Development Program.
Application due Feb 9, 2017. Grant administrator and engineer need to be secured. 
This year the floor is $225,000 so not every community will be funded in the two year cycle. Extra points given next time around for communities who do not qualify in a year.

Aranda says that each year this is less and less money. Now it is about $168,000, used to be close to a half million. After admin is paid, there is not much left over for materials and actual progress. 
She says she understands and that is why the floor is set higher than before. Federal funds are lower than before, it is tough. Bringing it up to $275,000 and not everyone gets a grant. 
Solid waste monies available. Application workshop August 29th at Casner Room in Marfa. Hernandez wants to know if County can get a grant and if they can't use the equipment can they pass it on to cities? Particularly with tires, maybe a trailer to haul them. The cities do the work... Annette says not rally, the surplus funds and other goes to El Paso since they have essentially unlimited needs. 
She recommends teaming up with Brewster County on some of these issues. 
Grant totals between $5000-$8000. 
Hernandez wants to know who applies for these grants. Judge says that she sent info to commissioners, can pursue those grants. Annette says county and city can apply jointly. Judge says our OMB dept should be at that meeting since they handle the grants. 
RGCOG Sept 9 annual meeting at 11:00 AM at El Paso Marriott. Everyone welcome.

Item 7- CIP grant for Presidio-Lely airport.
Chase Snodgrass presents. Says this is the same process as Marfa airport grant. County has already paid match. State grant requires publication of some policies. Hernandez moves to approve. Unanimous.

Item 8- what further steps need to be taken regarding coming into compliance with grants. 
Sheriff asked for this item. Sheriff asks OMB what he needs to do. Katie Sanchez says that he needs to account for an ATV. Sheriff says he will do that today. Katie then says that once everything is accounted for and reassigned, then some other things may come up. 
Sheriff says he understands that, wants to know what else. Judge says she has sent a list, includes re-outfitting Dodge with police radio gear, etc. Also Sheriff needs to sign the conflict of interest policy.
Sheriff says he will not address the conflict of interest policy since it is not in the agenda. Judge says that she would like to hear about why this is. 
Sheriff says that the law requires that a conflict of interest policy must be on hand, but not necessarily has to have anyone sign it. White say that commissioners court passed that he had to sign. Sheriff says that he is not required. Judge says grant requires it. White asks, "What's the deal? Why can't you get this signed?" Sheriff says he does not have to, no other Sheriff knows about this type of policy. White says that just by refusing to sign it it makes it looks like he has a conflict of interest. Says sheriff is already playing by the rules, why not just sign it? Sheriff declines to respond.
Judge says that another problem is that several vehicles have been loaned out and are not being used for law enforcement. Need to be returned to Sheriff and then maybe county owned vehicles 

Aranda wants to know if Sheriff does not sign the conflict of interest policy, what happens with grants. Katie says that since we have a policy saying it needs to be signed, state goes by that. We get in trouble. 
Judge says she has the statute re: policy. 
She reads the statute to commissioners. County must ensure that no conflict of interest of any person administering grants or receiving grant funds, assets. County policy is it must be signed. State goes by that. Sheriff says he has not heard that, has not seen it, will not sign it. 
White wants to know how soon Stonegarden kicks in if we get into compliance. Katie says it is undetermined. Says that sometime in Feb more news may come. 
Says we did not apply for 2015 funds, none awarded. 2016 funds may be awarded, will receive in Feb 2017. It is a three year grant. About $800,000 total. 
Aranda asks what our deficiencies are at this point. 
Judge says that the thermal camera is not accounted for. Katie says she can get that taken care of today. Reinstall equipment on Dodge. Annual audit is being waited on. 
Judge says that all vehicles funded by Stonegarden needs to have all vehicles marked with all original equipment in it. Must have all in there, be marked, can only be used to Homeland Security. 
White says we need to get vehicle inventory straightened out. Judge asks Sheriff to get with her, treasurer and OMB to come up with a plan to answer monitoring review and also make plans for vehicle redistribution, accountability. 
Sheriff says that he will. Vasquez asks if the conflict of interest lack of Sheriff's signature will hurt them. Judge says we can hope it does not, but we know that it is supposed to be submitted. Says that Homeland Security will ultimately decide whether that is a problem. 
Hernandez wants to know who we can ask if the Sheriff decides not to sign? Katie says that Pete Lara may be able to help, but no guarantees. Hernandez says he is pretty sure the Sheriff would sign if everyone told him he had to, but do we really need this?
Judge says that even though the money is awarded by the State of Texas, Washington DC provides the funds the state administers. She says that the federal requirements need to be followed and this is one of them.
Hernandez says that if the Sheriff says that no other Sheriff has singed this then why does he? 
Judge says she believes that if we know what the rules are, we should be following them. That's what she believes.
White says that if the conflict of interest is not signed, then why would the State not think there is  a conflict. Judge asks Sheriff is he is waiting for an attorney general opinion, as he stated before to commissioners. Sheriff says no. Judge says that the are prerequisites for everything we get, we need to follow. 
Katie says that regardless the County has a policy that says every employee must sign this. Hernandez says he is concerned that many people are affected by this decision. Judge asks which decision. Hernandez dances around the issue, speaks for a while while not pointing finger at Sheriff, says everything except the obvious re: Sheriff's non-cooperation. 
Aranda says he wishes that this issue could be easily resolved. He wishes that Sheriff could see that cooperation and compliance needs to happen. Asks the Sheriff nicely to comply since he is part of the County team. Katie says that thus far she has not had a problem with communication from the Sheriff's Office regarding accounting for grant funded equipment.  No further discussion. 

Item 9- bid on Presidio County trust property, Lot 12, Block 3, Russell Addition, Presidio. Martin from Perdue is here. Actual value of land is about $4000. There is a condemned structure on the property that will have to be removed. Property is behind the American Legion. Bid is for $5000, Martin recommends selling it to bidder. 
Hernandez wants to know more about the property. Martin says that it has been in County trust for a few years. Recommends sale since amount is more than lot value, get it back on tax rolls. Approved

Item 10- EMS monthly financial reports: city of Presidio. 
Judge Beebe asks if the reports have been verified by comparing the reports to actual calls to dispatch. 
Judge says she is requesting that information, was told that she would have to pay a lot of money for copies, access to sensitive information, possibly several thousand dollars. Has called Austin for clarification on this matter. Says she thought that being emergency management coordinator gave her access. Need to get some clarification. 
White says he is concerned about budget process and lack of transparency. Total local of receivables and/or billing to people receiving the services. Zero accents receivable listed, are they even billing? Judge says that Marfa report has all that information, but she believes that City of Presidio does not have the software to account for that. We need to look at future policy with regard to this. She sent an email to the Mayor telling him that the " business as usual" approach is not a viable option this year. 
Meeting this afternoon we will be dealing with this. We have so many things to resolve with the a City of Presidio. Our own auditor has questions regarding the balance due from the city regarding tax collection and dispatch funds owed. 
Now that 4:00 meeting is probably not taking place, judge will not be able to get back to commissioners with regard to how to resolve this. Tax assessor Norma Arroyo is asking the City of Presidio to pay in advance for future service. 
Hernandez asks about City of Marfa's report- is it complete? Yes, says Judge. Hernandez says that to him the City of Presidio's report is not really a report, just more of a description of what they said they did. Judge says she would like for the Sheriff's Office to cooperate in getting more information from the dispatch.
Hernandez says he wants to make sure that commissioners have all the information possible before making any decisions regarding funding different EMS agencies. 
Aranda says that with this information her we really don't know what the costs really are. Advocates researching the true cost of mileage, etc county would be on the hook for if county contracts on a per mile basis. 
Judge brings up the $131,000 owed and still no response from the City... 
Meeting set up for today with the City, now probably not happening. Says Marco Baeza said first that City would reimburse County, but had to consult with Attorney first. Now meeting may not be happening. Auditor says that history shows that City was paying bill, received services, just stopped paying the bills sometime last year. 
Judge says she is implementing a system to have scheduled follow up regular agenda items already marked on future agendas. 
Hernandez wants to know if we send out any invoices for services. Patty Roach says that to her knowledge we don't send out any invoices. Hernandez questions the County's policy. Patty says the Treasurer keeps track of who pays. Patty recommends that going forward we go ahead and invoice any entities receiving services. Hernandez likes that recommendation.
Judge gives kudos to the auditor for finding that we had not been paid.
Motion to approve financial reports asked for by Judge. Is there one? Aranda says that during this afternoon's budget workshop we should have the city administrator there to ask him to clarify details, or just talk about this situation. Knows that the city wants the county to help them, but they need to help themselves too. Judge says she will cal Eric and the city administrator to see if they can attend and answer questions.
Motion to accept by Judge: White seconds. Unanimous

Item 11- Sheriff's Office monthly financial report: 
Hernandez remarks that nearly 3000 calls per month through dispatch is a lot. Sheriff agrees. White makes motion to accept. Unanimous

Item 12- departmental advances and registrations for training:
Discussion about upcoming Lajitas training for commissioners. Motion to approve by Aranda. Patty clarifies that they are also in the bills. Will be dealt with in bills item.

Item 13- line-item transfers: 
County Judge for training, district court, money for fuel. Jail $75,000 for salaries for jailers to move to US Marshal transport. Transportation to professional services and communication for Constable pct 1 - $500. Constable 2- $1000 to tires. Several others...
Sheriff asks question about line item transfers: ask about reserve officer funding. Judge clarifies that it was approved the second time around. Sheriff asks if it is a practical matter to micromanage his budget even though it is his budget. Patty Roach says that it is required to go before commissioners court. He says ok, so that is required to micromanage it even though it is within my budget. Is it not called micromanaging. Patty says yes, it is a definite requirement. Sheriff asks if it is the ,saw or what? Patty says that yes, she can provide the statute, but that it is not required in larger counties. 
Aranda tells Sheriff that we did not deny funding. Sheriff says thought that during the time commissioners stall, nobody is working. Do they understand? Aranda talks about improved communication, we need it including from you. Judge holds up a a stack of emails she sent to Sheriff and that his responses always say, "Good luck" and nothing else. She cannot force anyone to communicate with me. Sheriff says yes, they all do say that. Judge shows another one where the Sheroff replied, "LMAO" with regard to a sick leave policy for Isidro Garcia. Sheriff says, "yes. That's right." 
Aranda is getting riled up. He says that if we do not talk to each their, we cannot face our problems. Every year we face this; if we cannot communicate where are we? Judge asks Aranda if he is accusing her of not communicating. No, says Aranda, goes on about communication.m
Sheriff says this was discussed with two people otherwise. 
Whites asks Sheriff how he can respond to an email with "LMAO"? Sheriff says he is not the only one acting this way.
Judge says she is always willing to speak with people. Sheriff says he is not the only one, and that the Sheriff does not go over to talk with her. sheriff stonewalls, says that he does not ever ask her for help. Judge is now mad. 
Hernandez says that judge should calm down, that we all need to do a better job communication within the county. Judge says she is not arguing, she is taking care of everyone who comes in, she is communicating. Hernandez says that right now she is not communicating with him in a good way. Judge asks is a response such as "Good luck" is acceptable. Hernandez says that he is just saying that everyone needs to do a better job, this is not productive. 
Vasquez asks about line item transfers should probably all go through one place. Like all should go through Patty to commissioners court. 
Hernandez asks about the P.O. process. Cheryl explains the process. 

Motion to approve: Vasquez. White seconds. Unanimous.

Item 14- bills and expenses:

Patty Roach has some changes to the submitted list. No payments to City of Presidio, pulled them. 
County Annex and courthouse, pulled Eagle Pest Control, no amount on invoices. 
White asks if the commissioners were not going to do reimbursements anymore. White clarifies, asks why there are reimbursements on the bills? Cheryl says that Coker told her that Katie said he could. White says are we going to follow what we decided to do. Aranda says we will do a what we decided to do. Patty Roach has a comment. she understands the concept, but she thinks that you do not reimburse employees for expenses there are circumstances where a purchase order is not efficient. The commissioners still have total control over reimbursements. 
Hernandez asks about approval for reimbursements for expenses? Are they approved beforehand? Patty explains that employees take risk on reimbursements. Sometimes they get an advance, other times they get reimbursements. 
White still wants to know if they are going to follow the non-reimbursement policy.
Patty says that she is giving her point of view. Realistically there are situations where it is more costly to issue a purchase order than to do a reimbursement. 
Patty explains further expenses related to travel. 
Questions regarding David Beebe's travel and training. Receipts provided, reimbursement not guaranteed. Must submit receipts in order to receive any monies, must be budgeted. Beebe explains that he understands that by charging things in advance he takes total risks on not being reimbursed, did submit receipts but still risks not being paid. Patty agrees, commissioners still have the power to refuse reimbursements. Employee takes risk. 
Hernandez pushes for reimbursement to Beebe since it is in his budget, it is legitimate expenses. Katie brings up that that is fine for this purpose, but grants have different rules and we have had trouble with reimbursements with the grant funds, it has gotten us into trouble in the past. Very important to remember. Judge says that without a purchase order system it could be possible to have duplicate reimbursed. Purchase orders also help the county's financial team have a better idea of real, active budgets. Hernandez gives example of the school, must have P.O. To get an item, or risk not being reimbursed. 
White asks about reimbursements for Constable #2, tires and other supplies, clearly bypassing the P.O. System. 
Chase Snodgrass remarks and expounds on the fact he did not know about the policy. Remembers the past policy in the Purchasing Policy about taking your own risk. 
Hernandez says that maybe there should be some upper and lower limits on what is permitted. 
Patty says let's continue with the bills...
Southwest Border Sheriff's Association bill for Sheriff membership/ training.
Chase had his reimbursement reduced, incomplete receipt. 
Jail fund: payment before shipping on an item, treasurer will research. 
Judge makes motion of approving all bills as presented minus bills Patty pointed out. 


Adjourn at 12:19

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