County begins the new fiscal year

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The Robertson County Commissioners’ Court opened the 2013-2014 fiscal year with a long list of decisions to make; committees were set up and contracts affirmed. The Court approved the addition of a voter ID center in the County Election Office, and with the historic courthouse and jail nearing completion, the Court it looked toward a December date when citizens will be invited to see their new/old 1880s Courthouse.
Shortly after beginning deliberations at 2 pm on Monday, the court approved County Clerk collections of $36,447.34 and tax collections for August 2013 of $43,106.13.
Next, Election Administrator Trudy Hancock reported that the Election Center was now ready to make state ID’s to be used for voting purposes. Counties without DPS offices have been provided with the camera, scanner, printer, computer, etc to produce the ID’s and residents who need an ID to vote can come to the Election Center on Center Street in Franklin to get them. Both Hancock and her assistant are trained and ready.
The commissioners approved a continuation of the County’s current medical insurance for retired employees despite a prescription cost increase. It gave its support to Oak Grove Mining to purchase property (1.37 acres) adjoining FM 2293 and move its dragline crossing on Hwy. 7 from the south to north side, placing it within the County.
The panel heard from historic courthouse / jail construction manager Jim Hanks who reported that the rain had not hampered construction significantly since most work had moved to the inside. Work on the jail roof was slowed a bit. However, he said, there was some flooding to the Courthouse Annex basement because of a conduit connecting wiring from the Annex to the historic jail had been moved and some water had seeped into the Annex. Those problems were being solved, damage was slight, and it will not happen again, he said.
The Court set its regular meetings for 2013-14 for the 2nd and 4th Monday at 2 pm, maintaining its current schedule. It accepted Dogwood and Nesbitt Bridges, recently reconstructed by TXDOT, into the county maintenance problem but delayed accepting Wildcat and Providence Bridges until all construction-related invoices to TXDOT had been paid. Commissioner Keith Petitt (Pct. 1) commended TXDOT for the beautiful restoration work they had done, especially on the historic bridges: Wildcat and Providence.
In a similar vein, Hearne Economic Development Director Kent Brunette asked the County to consider giving its support to rebuilding the Port Sullivan/Hearne Bridge. Justifying reconstruction would be difficult with no compelling use for the bridge at this time. He pointed out that the projected closing of FM 485 to reconstruct its Little Brazos River Bridge might provide a use since FM 485 will be closed for about 9 months.
He also requested County HOT (Hotel Occupancy Tax) funds of $30,000 for the next 2 years to help build a conference center in Hearne. He explained that the City of Hearne, which provides more HOT tax than any other city in the county, had purchased four storefronts on 4th Street to convert into a Conference Center — the Downtown Crossroads Center used primarily for Union Pacific or other corporate personnel training, and for events like reunions and wedding receptions. County financial participation could be done if the County agreed to either be part- owner or part-manager. Brunette said the City would welcome the County’s participation as part-manager. County Judge Jan Roe said she and the Court would consider both proposals and asked that Brunette contact the city of Madisonville about the Kimbro Center, a similar venue built with city/county cooperation.
Roe suggested that the panel ask the Robertson County Historical Commission to plan an open house for the historic courthouse and jail. Petitt suggested that some county officials also serve on the committee.
The Court also agreed to set up a committee to study means to improve the County’s 9-1-1 service. The committee will consistent of representatives from each of the 4 police departments, the Sheriff’s office, the constables’ offices, the Fire Departments and EMS. Roe suggested that the committee be chaired by an outside communications expert and agreed to invite the 9-1-1 heads from Brazos and Limestone Counties.
The commissioners agreed to setting up a committee to evaluate and score HOT fund requests. Currently, the Historical Commission performs that service but since the Commission is a potential recipient of funds, their appointment might pose a conflict of interest. Roe suggested a Board comprised of representatives of the 4 chambers of commerce, the hotels, and the Historical Commission with meetings held quarterly or bi-annually.
Next, the Court agreed to contract with Lexis/Nexis to secure an online law library. The state requires that law libraries be available to inmates and even though inmates in Robertson County rarely use them, they must be available. At $350 a month, the Lexis/Nexis online library is the most cost-effective, said Assistant DA Robert Yezak.
The Court voted to continue contracting with the Brazos Valley Council of Governments for help with its Senior Center operations and with the State to participate in the Indigent Defense Grant Program. It decided, on the recommendation of County Justices of the Peace, not to participate in the state’s DWI Bond Schematic Program because, according to JP Keith Folterman (Pct. 1), the JP’s are already doing what the program requires.
For a $100 entry fee, the County joined the Keeping Texas Beautiful Program to support cities that wish to participate—Calvert in particular. It voted to nominate Terry Williams and Keith Nickelson to the County Appraisal District’s Board of Directors, and it appointed Calvert PD Chief Nancy Juvrud to BVCOG’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee and Homeland Security Advisory Committee. Roe also urged all residents serving on COG committees to show up for meetings. She explained that the county lost the opportunity to get some left over block grant money because the County did not know it was being offered.
Finally, the Court voted to pay two sets of invoices, one almost $120,000 for road and bridge equipment and one for $919,845.31, over half going for the courthouse/jail construction project.

Melissa Freeman / Robertson County News

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