Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Notes on Presidio County Commissioners Court meeting, 6/27/2017, 9:30 AM, Presidio

Presidio County Commissioners Court June 27, 2017, 9:30 AM, Presidio

Convene at 9:40 am

Present: Judge Cinderela Guevara, Eloy Aranda, Lorenzo Hernandez, Loretta Vasquez
County Attorney Rod Ponton also present.

Citizen comments:
Judge Beebe addresses commissioners court about item on agenda for executive session and open meetings act violations by going into executive session for reasons other than personnel or contract issues possibly detrimental to the county. Says he believes that commissioners broke the law last time the meeting was held in Presidio with regard to the county/city of Marfa law enforcement contract. Although he cannot prove the law was broken, he remind commissioners and judge that despite what the county attorney says about whether or not executive session is legal, if it isn't the commissioners can be prosecuted. Reminds Commissioners that when Alpine city council got in trouble for breaking the TOMA Rod Ponton was then city Attorney and the council members got into trouble, not the attorney.

Carlos Nieto advocates for Clerk Services in Presidio.
Also addresses Court regarding partial closure of drivers license office in Presidio. Sheriff Dominguez will write a letter to DPS advocating for full reopening. Need commissioners court to help.

Judge's comments:
July 6 is emergency training for all county officials. All need to attend. David Marquez from El Paso will be giving training. Judge will ask officials of other agencies to attend as well. 

Tomorrow Judge Guevara and EPA will go to Ojinaga for HAZmAT training.
Carlos Nieto says that he sees HAZMAT resources going to Mexico and not here. He wants Judge to help him tell the story of the needs in the County.
Says we need to do a better job of letting our needs be known. Judge says that she does not think she would have known about this training if she had not attended the training in Alpine last month. Judge invites commissioners to attend if they would like.
Judge says that Joe Portillo and he Mayor of Presidio will be there too. 
Hernandez says he will try to go since he wants to advocate for disposal solutions.
Nieto brings up restricted items not being able to cross the bridge currently because of lack of HAZMAT inspections at gate.
Judge says Greg Davis of Capital met with her after the last meeting regarding the pipeline appraisal numbers. Invites commissioners to email him with any questions about pipeline numbers. Confirmed that county is not able to tax railroad for pipeline brought to the county. Anything in county for less than 182 days does not achieve "Situs". Railroad assessments are different than normal tax assessment.
Carlos Nieto makes additional comment: says Greg Davis was here for mine value court case. He sent Greg to judge also to discuss all utility assessment in County. Very well-informed individual. Good resource to have and use.
Aranda as there is a lot of misinformation it there; the county anticipated a few million of revenue from the pipeline but it will be less, probably about 600-650 thousand only.
Hernandez says we need to be careful with these numbers because people will be asking about the money and he numbers. Nieto says that numbers will need to be certified by sometime in July. Need to be careful in budgeting with the numbers you use, not too high, not too low. 
Judge says that in meeting with dept heads that budget talks have gone well, nobody has asked for unreasonable raises or demands. 

Commissioners: Aranda thanks Carlos Nieto for helping with officials in Austin trying to keep drivers license office open. Hopeful for more progress on this issue. Ponton aye that DPS is trying to set up mega centers in the cities and the funding is coming from the rural areas. Hernandez is interested in how the previous employee gave information to her higher ups. Nieto says that he was extra offended when DPS offered to reopen the office if the city of Presidio would pay for the office. Gross injustice that the poorest of the poor would have to pay while the richer areas of the State get it provided. 
Will be an agenda item on the RGCOG agenda for July. 
Senator Rodriguez and Poncho Nevarez are working on this. Will Hurd also making noise. Hernandez recommends a letter from commissioners court and the cities, school districts. 
Ponton mentions the voter ID mandate as a potential motivator for lessening Services for ID s in border communities. 
Judge says she will also speak with Judges Duer and Cano in neighboring counties since the one person at the Alpine office is already overburdened. Hernandez says the worst thing was hat DPS gave us no notice, no options, no respect.

Hernandez says the water grant project in Candelaria meeting will occur today around five pm. Judge says she has found a few folks who are willing to help out with a class c license and another with a class d license. Presidio person with class c license will operate system and class d licensee can assist and backup. Issues with sharing water meters still need to be addressed. 
Hernandez says there is still a need to secure the water system.
Both ladies in Candelaria who are very involved with the system are very sick. 
Ponton says that TCEQ has recommended that the county set up a countywide water district to run the outlying areas. Something to look at and work with the COG on. 
Nieto says that may be the best thing to investigate for long term success and compliance. 
Ponton says that trash pickup could be included. Hernandez says that even ten dollars a month could be debilitating for many in those areas. 
COG rep Annette Gutierrez says that grant funding for cleanup events and not regular service could be accessed. "Customary service" not acceptable for grant approval.
Nieto says that in the absence of these programs much gets burned, and what does not get burned gets into the arroyos. Or illegally dumped along roadways. 
Or brought into City of Presidio. 
More talk about trash and tire removal.

Item 6-8
NIBRS reimbursement for COG. Annette Gutierrez presents. Patch of COPSync, software for constables offices, light admin cost. 
Constable Marquez applied for grant, sheriff's office has COPSync, ready to integrate. 
Next year constable Coker could apply.
Costs approved by commissioners. Items six, seven and eight approved. 

Item 10- (no item 9 on agenda)
Marfa and Presidio County museum funding: 
Presentation last Commissioners Court meeting by JoAnn Williams. 
Judge says that money could be amended in budget. Vasquez moves to approve. Aranda seconds. 
Motion carries. Hernandez steps out before vote but has no objection. 

Item 11: contract with LexisNexis for legal subscription. 
$216/month. Judge asks for postponement of item, not everything included in this item description. Needs correction. Aranda motions to postpone. Approved.

Item 12: Ballroom Marfa dirt purchase for adobe construction. 
Judge wants to know about soil purchasing. Ruben says that sometimes we donate to non-profits. Aranda says that over the years that the County has occasionally donated things, but has not sold Services in the past because it eventually causes problems. 
Donations to non profits a little different. Judge reads letter requesting sale of soil. 
Soil to be delivered. Hernandez is concerned about competing with the local businesses. Vasquez is interested in giving it to them and not selling it. Hernandez agrees. Ruben Carrasco agrees that the county does not want to be in the business of selling dirt. Vasquez makes the motion to donate, Aranda seconds. 
Sheriff says that a donation is not on the agenda, not permitted today. Virgie agrees. Vasquez says we can sell it for one dollar, amends his motion. Hernandez seconds. 

Items 13,14,15,16- CDBG grant items 

Engineering services: approve RFQ process-  approved 

RFQ for selecting engineering services for grant. Approved

RFQ for grant administrator: approved

RFQ to select grant administrator: approved

Item 17- change name of Tyson st to Mendoza after a property owner. Person who requested is not present. Judge unsure of location, reason for proposed change.
Ruben says that this road is right next to Palomino cantina in the illegal colonia up there. It is not a county road. Ponton says it is private property, commissioners have nothing to do with it, court should take no action. 
Sheriff says that history has that area called Tysonville, unsure of how it got that way. Definitely not a dedicated county road. Court should not act, commissioners agree. 
Aranda says Ruben is working on a complete map of all county roads to be approved and submitted to state to show how much mileage we re maintaining for grant funding etc. 
Discussion of various roads maintained and not maintained by county. 
No action on item.

Item 18: Upper Shafter Road as County road. Ruben Carrasco, road and bridge dept. 
person who submitted application is Matt Quick, Shafter property owner. Road has been maintained by County for a long time, although not listed. 
Court has authority to designate and name road. 
Ruben says that it has been maintained for years and years. One resident, Glenn Rhinehart, wants to be sure that nobody trespasses on the sides of the road. 
Road is not on TXDOT county road list. 
Road also crosses Pat Simms property. 
Ponton says that he has not been advised. Says the county needs surveys, deeds, and to designate easements. Legal description not adequate. Action would be premature. 
Aranda recounts another incident about designating a road and the difficulties on getting a survey, permissions from landowners. 
Ponton says that dedicating a road without easements, we could be condemning private property and subject to liability. 
Chapter 251 of transportation code addresses some of these issues. 
Aranda makes a motion to postpone until County Atty and Ruben can review and prepare any recommendations. 
Ponton says he will provide a on sheet on how to add a county road to the system in the future. 

Item 19:
Unlawful dumping ordinance.
Basics is proposed ordinance. Ponton says counties can enforce state laws against dumping as long as commissioners adopt a county ordinance.
Hearings in front of justice of the peace regarding illegal dump sites.
Aranda discusses fencing for eyesores. Ponton says visibility is part of the ordinance.
Nieto says that commissioner Hernandez has been bringing this up for a long time. 
Unsightly, health hazards. 
Ponton says that wording in this ordinance comes from Ector County. 
Will letters be sent? Process is peace officer to send letter, after ten days then citation can be issued, JP can issue order, afterwards can impose fines, be forced to clean up.
Judge says that she thinks we can pass ordinances trying to control people, but we need to think about having a dedicated enforcement officer for all this. 
Says that if we do not do this, there is no way progress will actually occur. Sheriff's office is already strained, has more important things to do. A person dedicated to this in the next budget cycle who gives monthly reports to commissioners court on progress is something she would like to see. 
Aranda says that there are a lot of people with yards full of worthless stuff, they will want answers on how to move their items. Judge says that solid waste grant's will be helpful and part of this. 
Hernandez says this is the first phase, he agrees we need to ramp up to an officer, but this first phase needs to happen now. 
Judge says that she has not unite had the time to really go through everything in this document, she wants everyone to really study this, might want to postpone. Aranda says that we are going to approve this or something similar, we don't yet have a comprehensive plan, but can approve this for now. Ponton says we can approve as a first reading, final reading later.
Judge motions to approve the ordinance effective immediately. Seconded by Aranda. Unanimous.
Ponton encourages comprehensive reading on the matter, possible adjustments for next meeting, potential to amend. 

Consent items: 

 Item 22: law enforcement.

Open meetings discussion- Judge has that in light of Judge Beebe's comments at the beginning of the meeting she does not want to discuss item in closed session, does not think it qualifies. Lorenzo Hernandez wants to know what the problem is with closed session. Ponton says it is permitted. Judge says she has been mistaken in the past and it is her duty to make corrections and she will not go into closed session even if the rest of them do. 
Atty client- Ponton says that it is permitted in this case due to possible litigation issues. Attorney client privilege. Judge says she is unaware of any discussion of any litigation, has not heard anything about that from anyone. Ponton quotes statue about litigation. Judge stands firm on refusal and she thinks it should be in open session. 
Aranda says he does not mind if it is in open session, why is there a problem? Hernandez says open session or closed session is ok with him but why can't we do it in executive session. Ponton says we can. Judge says she does not believe we can. 
Both public entities, and city did not go into executive session on the matter.
Sheriff is asked about city negotiations. 
City of Marfa had meetings in open session. 
Aranda says there don't seem to be secrets.
Ponton says he has no problem with it being in open session. 
Judge says that she has a letter from city administrator regarding contract. 
Hernandez wishes to know if there is a problem. Judge stands firm on staying in open session since there is no pending litigation. 
Aranda says there is no reason to risk this. 
Judge says that abusing the executive session is very serious.
In the past, judge says that she put bids for property into executive session, but she has been corrected on that matter. 
Judge says this is not a matter of being intimidated, it is a matter of doing things right. 
Ponton says that statute says that governmental entities may consult privately with Atty on matters of litigation or potential litigation.
Judge says that she has not received any notice of possible litigation. 
Marco Baeza says that agenda item does not specify what the item specifies. The item is too vague as to what the purpose is.
Based on conversation he has heard, he does not know what the purpose of the item is. 
Judge makes motion to postpone items 22 and 23. 
Vasquez seconds. 
Hernandez wants to discuss this in open session or whatever. Does not care if it is in executive session. Wants to know what's happening. 
Aranda says he wants to find out what's going on as well. 
Judge amends motion 
Motions to discuss in open session. 

Item 22: letter from Mustard.
Marfa city council wants additional information on bill from county. City wants documentation on actual expenditures for work performed under proposed contract. 
City does not agree that city and contract has a contract to begin with. 
$110,000 bill.
Aranda notes that city had never asked this before.
Ponton discussed this with outside counsel Jim Allison and there are two legal ways to enforce this agreement.
One is a contract. Contract enforcement of prior agreement. Service upon merit.
Ponton thinks sheriff's office has seen more that that as it is. Says that citizens are being punished, and what for? 
Judge says that Ponton received this email, Ponton says he has not seen it.
Vasquez asks about when the contract was not renewed
Ponton says that contract was not renewed, much like other previous ones took months to need. Regardless, services were provided and paid for in past.
County expected new contract to be handled in the same way as past contracts.
Services were provided.
If contract was prorated city owes county $110,000.

Aranda says he is surprised that Marfa wants all this information.
City of Presidio has worked with county on tax assessor s bill, this is less money. Aranda says that this is nonsense, city should pay.
Nieto says that city of Presidio paid despite nobody having a signed document. City made good with county. County treated Presidio aggressively; Marfa should be treated the same way. He does not see good will from city of Marfa.
Hernandez wants to know who is taking care of negotiations from the county side. Judge says she wrote a letter asking for compensation for services provided. OMB and auditor prepared numbers. Marfa responded with these requests. Now we need to go further, consult with County Atty. Hernandez would lie, to have joint meeting with City of Marfa council. Is this possible? Ponton says yes. 
All decision makers at the same table. Judge asks if other commissioners would like this. All commissioners express support.
Ponton says two issues:
City decided they didn't like Sheriff Dominguez 
County is out $110,000 
Two issues, city can do what they like with the first, pay the bill for the second. 
Nieto says that for all the county does for the city of marfa, Marfa is ungrateful. Yes, transparency is important, and so is doing the right thing. City of Presidio was badgered and reprimanded, shamed into paying less money for tax collection bill to the county, Marfa should get at least that same  this case. 
Vasquez would like to provide the numbers they are asking for in the meantime.
Probably more than the $110,000. 
Hernandez thinks they are making this more difficult than it needs to be. Judge wants to schedule a joint meeting. Talks regarding when possible. July 18 or 19 tentatively scheduled. 

Recess for 12:25 until 1:25

Reconvene at 1:47 PM

Budget amendments
23,726 dollars in phone cost transfers, line to line. Most is sheriff/jail of $20,000 plus.
Long distance call expense, more calls in general.
ATT charging over $3 per minute for long distance. Up from $1.55. Outrageous. 
Most jailers and deputies have cell phones that are out of area. 
Big Bend Telephone service changeover is going to be a big cost reduction. 
Vasquez says that if we have to wait another six months on this then maybe we get some cell phones in the meantime.
Auditor will inquire about switching to bbt phone only contract first before fiber rewiring.

Judge motions to approve emergency expenditure for phone costs/budget amendment. Unanimous 

Line item transfers:

Approved unanimously including transfer for museum funds approved earlier in meeting.

Item 21: 
Auto Zone bill for transmission for pickup. Not yet received. Patty presents a receipt indicating received but transmission not received. Ruben says do not pay bill until received. Road and bridge pickup.

Bills approved minus Auto Zone bill.

Adjourn at 2:17 pm

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