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Friday, September 14, 2018

Notes of Presidio County Commissioners Court Special Meeting August 20, 2018, 9:30 AM, Marfa

Notes on Presidio County Commissioners Court Meeting Wednesday August 22nd, 2018, 9:30 AM, Marfa Commissioners present: Brenda Bentley, Loretto Vasquez, Eloy Aranda, Jose Cabezuela, Judge Cinderela Guevara Also present: County Atty Rod Ponton Meeting convened at 9:32 AM Citizen comments: Trey Gerfers, underground water district. Introduces Carolyn McCarty, new manager. Office is being set up, thanks commissioners. Carolyn will be representing at meetings. Invites everyone to eminent domain town hall at Crowley theater this sat at 5:30. Experts will present . Rod Ponton: wants to talk about last meeting. Judge says we’re not at that item yet. Item 5: Judges announcements: Judge says that she will allow Rod to make an announcement. Rod says he was unable to attend. Wants to respond to lack of prosecutions and convictions from his office. Request made by County Clerk. Says that such a request is ill advised and also illegal. Only a prosecutor can make a determination to prosecute. Quotes a legal opinion. Prosecutorial discretion needs to be executed in good faith. Goes on to discuss more. Other item: regarding pre trial diversion funds to be placed within the general fund instead of county attorneys pre trial diversion fund. Says that the program is used to help people out on small cases. Fee goes to reimburse Count Atty office for pre trial diversion program. Special fund to administer the program. No other permissible use. Bentley asks what percentage of cases are not pre trial diversions. Ponton says approximately half. Judge calls meeting to order. Says County Atty had too much to discuss. Says that we can come back to this once we discuss your budget. Judge met with DPS Sgt Sneed about joining in a program to be able to sign blood warrants on the phone. Not able to do this right now because of a pre existing program. PIPA met last week, had a quorum and an update. Judge gives a short overview of the meeting. Agriculture trade issues discussed. Aranda asks about rail progress in Mexico. Community open house meeting on water improvements in Candelaria. We must have a board convened; it has been years. Last night a board was convened. Five people were appointed. Arsenic removal for water grant had been pursued, no board was convened. Now that there is a board in existence we can reapply for that money. Meetings will be every month with the new board for the time being. Commissioner Cabezuela urged locals to join the board and was successful. Commissioners announcements: Aranda says that he is talking to TXDOT to look at materials that could be donated to County. They have a lot and we need it; they are trying to clear an old materials yard. Judge urges requesting materials that both cities may need as well. No other comments Item 6: payroll approval Treasurer Frances Garcia says that there are no anomalies within this payroll. Judge asks if any comp time was paid out. No. Total payroll 94,270.27 dollars. Approved unanimously Item 7: Abolition of County Office of Management and Budget. Judge gives some history of the office. Created by Judge Hunt and commissioners in 2014. Aranda was on that court as well. Purpose of office: to promote continuity in the county. Detailing inventory. Additional duties such as utilities added later. In the past grant management was done by elected officials. Grant management knowledge stays within the OMB office. There has always been contention towards this office. Accusations include interference with Treasurer and County Judge. Judge took office and did not initially understand what the office does and was in favor of abolition. Now that she knows what it does, she says it is a great help to the County. At that time audits were not in compliance. Vasquez says that in working on budget very few small counties have three financial offices. Proposes to keep auditor and treasurer and have easier communications and saving county monies. It is time to do something since it is budget time. Saving money for the County is the main purpose. Judge says that audits were brought back into compliance, OMB also discovered other things we needed to get into compliance with DPS and other grant requirements. Inventory tracking itself is huge. Mileage logs are part of the duties. Very important for grant compliance. Huge task. RFQs and RFPs are tracked. This is not the responsibility of the auditors office. Who will do this work? Do commissioners plan to abolish OMB only to have another department come to request another employee. Vasquez says that his idea is to have Jeanne Hall transfer to another office. Ponton makes an assertion that OMB has to do this work and auditor is not permitted. Bentley asks how in the world other counties get by with this. Ponton says that the issue of abolishing this office troubles him as your attorney to try to keep the county out of potential litigation. Has a handout that shows that abolishing the office has the same effect as firing Katie Sanchez. Bentley says no. Rod says yes. Rod says that a political retaliation suit from Sanchez could be a risk. Reads a memo he wrote. Quotes some recent case law about first amendment rights to run for office without fear of retaliation. Adverse Employment Action suit. Ponton recommends keeping the office and not exposing the county to liability. Bentley says every decision we make exposes us to liability. Commissioners have the right to eliminate an office. This is a budgetary item. The Judge has a position she can fill available right now. She does not feel like she can be held hostage to a threat of a lawsuit. Ponton says that the ill will between the Treasurer and Katie is well known. Aranda says one of his re election Campaign issues was eliminating the reduction of top heavy management in the acounty. Bentley says it’s the same for her. People come to her and were saying all the time that they wanted less managers, reduction of financial positions. Vasquez says that it’s the same for him. Same issues about having three financial offices. Judge says that all these additional duties are going to the treasurer? Judge asks what if the assistant leaves? Bentley says people leave all the time including the Judges recent clerk, with so much experience. Jose Cabelzuela says he would like to abolish OMB and reassign Katie a Sanchez to another office, not fire her. A Judge argues that she is running this discussion and she will decide who speaks when, as Brend is ready for public comments. Buddy Knight addresses the court at the invitation of the Judge. Former commissioner, commissioner elect. He speaks on history of getting in trouble with grants and needing help. At one point they owed the feds $300,000. Says if you abolish this office be sure that you have something in place to continue the work. Gives a history of how grant problems were repaired. Lady that fixed the trouble left after doing some good work. If OMB is taking care of grants she s probably earning her money and more. Be sure before you do this, think about it really hard. He does not know if the auditor can take this over or put enough people in the Treasurer’s office to take care of it. This does have an appearance of political retribution. Just from an outsiders view. Robert Halpern: says that he has covered these issues for the paper for years. Says that with all due respect this looks like political overtones are involved. In April the Treasurer brought an item about personnel to be discussed in executive session. County Atty said that Treasurer had no supervisor authority to bring that against OMB officer Sanchez. Says that in this case a commissioner comes forward to abolish the office. Bentley says that he is assuming that Frances has that power? Halpern says that the more eyes we have on compliance and finance the better as there is corruption and grant in this county. On the record he lists arrests and prosecutions. Brings up former Commissioner Hernandez and Carlos Nieto. Saving the money here to reduce a third level of oversight isn’t in the best interest of the County. Says if you want to save money, OMB costs out at $118,000. Golf course is $139,000. Forty golfers in the association means each golfer is subsidized by about $3400. He is a biker and would love a subsidized bike trail. He thinks the cost versus the benefit of oversight and grant administration is worth it. Gary Mitschke : says that he has been here for nine years. Used to deal with grants and it s a lot of work. Thinks the OMB is important to do that work. Whoever is in that office earns their pay. In the past it was kind of a mess. If the County is going to pursue grants they need to have a dedicated administrator. Lots of work. Buddy Knight: wants to reiterate what Gary says. We were understaffed for those responsibilities. Katie Sanchez: says that she wants to move on from this. She is not aware of a specific problem with her office. Talks about why OMB was created. It is obvious this item is on the agenda because of political retaliation. Says employees have been encouraged to resist OMB. Makes accusations against Treasurer, including yelling in public. Multiple accusations against Treasurer Garcia. Commissioners are aware of the volatile nature of the problem. One commissioner cooperates. Road and bridge supervisor said that on call time was approved, other employees were upset. County records once available to her have been blocked. Says that double standards exist for access to public information. Much information given by Katie about problems she has. She is upset with commissioners, who are her supervisors , for not even asking about problems brought to them about her office. Departments with questionable expenses have lashed out to her about denials of purchase orders. She adds multiple complaints about airports manager, road and bridge manager and some other employees and or officials mismanaging county assets. She says that be trying to enforce laws and rules she is vilified. She says this workplace is adverse, she is suffering and it’s hurting her family life. She likes her job but she is demanding a change. She hopes for resolution of the issue. She received a resignation letter from her assistant, effective immediately. Judge entertains a motion. Vasquez motions to abolish the office . Second by Bentley. In favor are Cabezuela, Vasquez, Bentley and Item 8: action items to abolish the road and bridge manager, airports manager, facilities manager. Judge goes to podium and states she has worked here since 1989. She remembers the good old days. Mario Rivera had been Treasurer and the atmosphere was relaxed and 5here were fewer personnel. Since then the County has been growing and the legislature adds more work for us the employee base has grown. Lists the personnel changes in each office. No supervisory positions existed back then. The Unit Management system was built with supervisors. She put the item on the agenda since she thinks one department was singled out. She does not agree with that decision. Says that our airport manager makes over $50,000 and has done an excellent job running the airports. Omnibus funding is possibly on its way for runway improvements. No in kind match required. Talks more about that. Gives credit to Chase for consistent and hard work. Turns this argument around on itself and asks if we should abolish this office and have the commissioners do it. She says no. Same argument made for facilities manager position. County Annex grant was on the line when she took office. Having a facilities manager saved this grant as she and he were able to get on it immediately and make it happen. She says this is the same argument, although late, for keeping OMB. Says commissioners earn $18,000 to come to meetings and if they want to come back to full time work they can and maybe could eliminate these positions. Ruben Carrasco makes $53,000 for road and bridge Dept and has been working for county since 2005. Part time since 1999. 2014 began as road and bridge manager. Judge says that Ruben assists her with her duties for permitting and other issues on a daily basis, in addition to being a supervisor for road and bridge employees. Judge calls for a vote. No motion made, but. A Vasquez has a comment. He says that the term abolish is not correct. He agrees that these departments are vital to the County. No motion. 11:04 AM Second public hearing on 2019 budget and tax rate: Mandy Roane from Marfa Public Library. Thanks for the support last year. Support allows us to serve any resident from Presidio County. Have used funds for materials and programming. New community room will open very soon. Outdoor seating will be open as well in courtyard hopefully before next week. Children’s programming will be the focus. Thanks County again for the $2500 last year and requests same for this year. Trey Gerfers: Groundwater Conservation District. Asking for $42,000 for monitoring equipment and director salary. Also, board members need training funds. No monitoring has ever been done by the District. Challenges are coming. Senator Rodriguez is very interested in working with the District. Will be seeking State assistance. Needs County support and investment to help get Big Bang for the bucks. Judge says that in non departmental Dept there is currently $20,000 for legal fees budgeted. Could be funds left over. Trey says that litigation costs can wipe out a District, needs to have this reserved Incase of a lawsuit. No current lawsuits filed. Requesting $42,000. $1000/ month for manager, $1000 for a cell phone, dues for governmental agencies and groups, Texas Assoc of Groundwater Districts. Aquifer research to identify small aquifers, monitor well levels. Dixon Water Foundation is ready to cooperate, donate some equipment. Office supplies, mileage for meetings. Ultimate goal is to be a resource. Multi year investment is needed to get to this level. Will be going after grants. Judge asks about Brewster County. 85,000 this year, 40,000the previous year. Making progress. Ana Saenz with DPS. Requesting an $800 cell phone for corporal Rey in Presidio. $6,000 in office expense and additional. None troopers and another academy will bring it up to ten. Seven in Marfa, two in Presidio. Judge asked about State funding. Ana says that most of the time they get hand me downs from El Paso. Lack of adequate supplies. Judge says that based on ticket revenues she believes this is a reasonable request. County Attorney budget: Rod Ponton presents Requesting the same as previous year with the exception of raises, which will be considered county wide. Bentley ask about health of pre trial funds. Rod says they are healthy and can go another year as is. Ponton says that within 60 days he will know if a crime victim coordinator grant has been approved. Judge asks about costs of Westlaw. Law library budget and Westlaw is available for all judges in the County and him. Judge wants it, needs to know how to get it. Rod says it’s a county law library issue, should not cost extra . Rod will find out for judge. Judge says that Westlaw has updated Atty Generals opinions, updated law. Sam Cobos, facilities manager: Bridget’s for all facilities are about the same for last year. One request not included in budget. Courthouse budget item for deputies and assistants. Chuck Simpson has been working here over a year, makes $10.99 per hour. Worried about losing him, he wants to stay. Full time employee, paid the same as part timer, he has more responsibilities. Requesting 25cents per hour in addition. $11.24 hour. Would be more in line with Billy’s pay doing similar work in Presidio. Bentley would like to raise him to $11.50. He takes a big load on his shoulders and courthouse departments are very pleased with his work and abilities, willingness to do things out of his regular duties. Aranda says lawn always looks beautiful. Only requested change from Sam. Judge asks about contract costs. Judge does not want to spend money on painting. Sam says that service contracts are for elevator and HVAC maintenance and switchover. Bentley would rather have small repairs done in house instead of contracted out. Sam says most of these projects are done and smaller stuff is done in house. Exterior work on courthouse building has not been done, was budgeted last year. Wants to use more repair and maintenance money to do this outside work. He has contracted with a local painter to paint windows and first floor exterior. Next year hopefully start on second floor, will cost more because of height. Bentley understands this and agrees that contractors are experts and for courthouse restoration experts are needed, but would rather see park benches et al be done in house. Sam says that at the golf course they will be flying on volunteers. Judge says that one of the things we need in Candelaria are meters. City of Presidio has some meters. Currently families are piggybacking on meters. We need to install more meters there. City of Presidio is willing to give some, asks Sam if facilities Dept could help with installation of meters along with road and bridge Dept. Sam adds that after repairing urgent needs he was tasked to develop long term plans for maintenance on facilities. Finally, after four years we are able to be looking at this and he, along with other departments are looking at that for the County as a whole. Ponton brings up the Constables budget. Several months ago commissioners authorized the county Atty to pursue environmental charges outside of the city limits for both cities. Rod has the authority to prosecute cases, but these are civil cases and he needs an enforcement arm to be able to investigate cases and enforce them. Not criminal, so not Sheriffs office purview. Would like to add money to Constable budgets to allow them to have the resources to investigate and enforce theses rules. He proposes an extra $6000 per year for both Constables. Judge disagrees that the Constable should be in charge of this. She thinks the cost is too large for small jobs. She would rather contract with someone to do this. Ponton sees this as an ongoing problem and responsibility for the County. Unsure. Aranda suggests a letter, threatening a ticket. Aranda wants to to do this right because elected officials are going to hear about this loudly . How much time do we give them? What are the intentions for them long term? City of Presidio for a long time has been asking us to enforce rules. Rod agrees but he needs a tool to use to get this done. Possibly a part time worker? Aranda agrees that this will take time and we need to do it right. The judge is concerned about giving the Constables a ten thousand dollar raise ad the long term effect of a raise and the associated payroll costs. Constable will already be in charge of serving a notice after a letter is sent. She thinks it already falls within their duties. She agrees that something needs to be done. Rod say that in larger areas there is a dedicated code enforcement official that does this. Lots of land along the highway to Presidio not in city limits. Aranda says the City annexed much of that property and it’s there responsibility if within the city limits. Vasquez is for it in concept, what did Constables say? Rod talked to the. And said they didn’t want to do it at this point but he thinks with additional funding they would. If still resistant we could find someone for five hundred per month to do it. Aranda suggests contracting with city code enforcement officers. Judge likes this idea. Ponton says that is is ok with that, he can talk to city officials about in interlock, agreement for these. Judge asks if it will come out of his budget? No. Laughter. More discussion later about issue, budgeting for it but overall commissioners think it’s a good idea. Judge asks if there are more budget issues from Dept heads. Ramon Carrasco speaks on behalf of Kleinmann consultants about the match funds for the grants for the TXDOT TAP grant sidewalk improvements . Wants to make sure it’s included used within budget. Judge says that within her budget she is not asking for anything different except she wants to get IPads and try to go paperless. Bentley says that she tried that with a small Dell tablet, and it did not work well for her. Ponton says that in Pecos they use a system where each item has tabs, and it’s very user friendly. Paper use around here is really high. Aranda is not so sure. Something to look into. Judge asks of they want to break for lunch., it’s Noon. What do we have to come back to on this? Aranda asks about agenda items that may need to be taken care of so they can leave. Judge says we can go over tax rate again and then close or recess the public meeting and come back to it. Agreed. Tax rate presentation part of public hearing: Covered in last meeting are the numbers. presented again. I&S: .05186 M&O: .56291 Total proposed: .61477 Recess from hearing at 12:03 PM Item 18and 19: Construction contract for Candelaria water supply company. Jerry Carvahal from Grantworks presents. Has been bid three times. We received a waiver for procurement of non competitive bid from State based on lack of competing bids. Received a bid. Budget is $220,000. Price is not for water well contract. Ramon says that two contractors wanted to bid but could not find a water well contractor. This will cover chlorination system, electronics and piping. Teri temp electric from Van Horn recommended. Still looking for water well contractor. Says that pricing from Teri temp is good. 88,619.00 Will leave $131,300 for well repairs and pump replacement. He is optimistic that this will be enough to get the well repaired plus also do meter installations, possible new maters. Will require a change order from TDA Possibility to use any leftover funds in Pueblo Nuevo. Aranda asks about the sewer septic system in Candelaria. Jerry says that in order to eliminate it you have to get rid of or fill the tank with sand, remediate the tanks. County will have the responsibility to mediate the septic tanks as part of the grant requirements. Aranda feels strongly that we do this process correctly and legally. Jerry says proof of mitigation for tanks will be required. Judge ask about Teri temp electric. Ramon says that they are working with them on other projects, familiar with grant requirements and methodology. Says they are doing a good job, familiar with process. Ramon wants to move forward, get this going. Judge makes motion to award contract to Tri temp. Second by Valenzuela. Unanimous. TCDBG block grant funding 2016-2020 funding cycle application. Due Feb 7th . Similar projects as Candelaria, Redford. Jerry says committee met and set priorities and the three are Water wastewater septic tanks and Road drainage Utility infrastructure . Others are not listed as priorities. Engineering and administration included. Need approval to go forward with trying to procure funding. Limit for funding requests is same as last year. $275,000 Judge says he did a great job at meeting in Van Horn. Advocated for parity on grant awards. Brought up a point of order. Aranda asks about typo. 2016 should be 2019 in item description. Motions to approve. Unanimously approved. Judge asks who will be handling grants. Jerry says they can help a bit on RFPs . Can lead county to the site that proscribes procedure and forms. Break for lunch at 12:21. One hour break. (I have a meeting with TV film crew at 2:00 for Bourdain wrap-up shoot- will miss second part of meeting) Back to meeting at 3:30 pm Auditors report: credit card update. Have a meeting on credit card issuance firm. Line item transfers Dispatch to train new workers. Communications bills for dispatch, Jail from jail Sgt salary account to move into bookkeeper. Will pay off Comp time and holiday time for current bookkeeper. Will move monies from salary to new bookkeepers wages. Records clerk position New Sgt will need to be trained by Brittany fox for a few weeks while new records clerk person is trained. Fox is currently both records and Sgt. New person will be strictly records at same wage as fox got before. New position won’t be created but she is the only Sgt and there are three budgeted. Fox is leaving and going to work for DA office. New person will make same salary as Fox did. Auditor says funds are in budget. Approved unanimously Treasurer Bills: no questions about bills. Accepted unanimously OMB report: Katie Sanchez says no report. Judge says that city of Presidio volunteer fire Dept and EMS reports, Agriculture extension agent were submitted. Judge motions to approve these reports. Adjourn at 3:42 pm

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