Commissioners wrap up 2013, look forward to 2014

In its last regular meeting of the calendar year, the Robertson County Commissioners’ Court looked at the completion of its current construction projects slightly later than planned and the immediate commencement of its first projects of the new year, a permanent Elections Center.
After approving minutes and bonds, the panel discussed election matters with Administrator Trudy Hancock. All agreed that early primary voting would again be held in all four cities: Franklin, Hearne, Bremond, and Calvert. Commissioners also agreed that Hancock should devote three days in a single week in January to making voter ID’s for residents who live outside of Franklin. The state provided the County with the necessary equipment to provide picture ID’s. The equipment, though cumbersome, will be set up in Hearne, Calvert, and Bremond, one day in each city, so residents without driver’s licenses or state ID’s can acquire a picture voter ID. Hancock pointed out that a landline had to be available in each location and that someone would have to cover the Franklin office while she and her assistant spent a day in each town. The county office in Hearne, the JP’s office in Bremond, and the Calvert Fire Station was suggested, with the county reimbursing the offices for the cost of required calls to Austin, a state requirement.
County Clerk Kathy Brimhall said that members of her staff would be happy to assist as long as the state had no objections. Brimhall is running for office this year and allowing her staff to work in the election office for 3 days in January might be considered a conflict of interest, she pointed out. Otherwise, election judges might be asked to cover the office on those days.
The Court approved a penalties and interest refund for a resident who had paid her taxes late because the notice went to the wrong address. It also approved the purchase of a fax machine for the District Clerk’s office.
At Commissioner Robert Bielmowicz’ (pct. 4) request, the Court approved work on the Fairgrounds parking lot across from the Fairground Arena. Frost Crushed Stone is providing the gravel at a fraction of the usual cost, said Bielmowicz. The Court also discussed repairs to the Tax Office. The awning in the back is severely damaged and flipping back and forth, posing a threat to people in the area. County Judge Jan Roe advised Bielmowicz to remove the back awning. The court approved repairs to the damaged awnings, front and rear, and other wind damage to the office exterior.
The panel considered allowing an open forum period during Commissioner Court meetings. Commissioner Donald Threadgill (pct. 2) asked if commissioners could respond to matters brought up in open forum, and Roe assured him they could not. She said the only way to be able to discuss a matter was to have it on the agenda. She did not believe that anyone who had asked to be on the agenda had been denied and felt that being on the agenda with the ability to fully discuss a matter was better than having 2 or 3 minutes to present an issue with no possibility of feedback. The court apparently agreed and no action was taken.
Next, Bielamowicz asked that the Court make more effort to invite high school students to sessions so they could get a better idea of how county government works. All agreed it was a good idea and decided to approach school district administrators with the idea. The new courtroom which will open in the reconstructed Courthouse will only hold a few people at a time, so it was proposed that each District be invited to send their seniors to their own “Senior Day” at Commissioners’ Court.
Under “construction related matters,” the Court learned that, for the first time, Courthouse construction had fallen a little behind schedule, due in part to the inability of subcontractors and vendors to find sufficient staff to work during the holidays. January 20 is now the forecast completion date.
The panel spent several minutes poring over three different plans for the new election office with construction scheduled to begin soon after the new year. It settled on a plan with a central portico. Hancock was concerned about doors being large enough for big voting machines to go through. The building will feature double doors for relatively easy transport but no roll-up garage door to make loading voting machines in trucks easier. Climate control with a roll-up door on the north side would be impossible, said construction manager Jim Hanks.
Currently, projections are that, with an aggressive building schedule, the Election Center can be completed by the end of July. If completion is delayed, said Hancock, she would not be able to move the office from its current temporary location until after the November general election. Hancock, Roe and the Commissioners will study plans over the holidays so they can be finalized and construction begin soon after.
The Court approved a $675 expenditure for the Robertson County Historical Commission out of its own special fund (not from tax money) to pay for prizes for the RCHC Art Contest awards. It also voted to allow the county to throw or give away broken equipment that had not sold during the SWICO Auction.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to continue its contract with the Boys and Girls Club of Robertson County for nine more months. At the end of those months, money used to support the Club will no longer be available since funds are taken from the Tobacco Account, not from regular county revenue, and the County’s Tobacco Funds account will be largely depleted at the end of the nine months. Funds going to the Boys and Girls Club over the next nine months will total $45,000, leaving a little over $3,000 in the Tobacco account.
The Court hired Southwest Solutions Group to move the County offices returning to the historic courthouse. Their services will cost the County a little over $17,000 but most agreed it was better to hire the experts and get it done correctly. It also approved payments of $1920 and $765.90 to Roll Call – Friends of Camp Hearne from the County’s Hotel/Motel Tax Fund.
The panel approved an invoice listing of a little over $173,400 and a separate invoice of $1,400 for a trailer purchase approved several months ago. The invoice had not been received because the company through Robertson County was Robinson County.
The Court also awarded bids for crushed rock, fuel, and contract hauling with only one bid for the first two. Frost Crushed Stone will again be the county’s supplier and only bidder; Producers Coop will, as in year’s past, provide the County’s fuel. Three bidders responded to the County’s request for haulers with low bidder Grapevine receiving the nod from Precincts 1 and 2, low bidder Hildebrant Services supplying Precincts 3 and 4 with David Reagan as secondary hauler.
During its last few minutes, the Court went into executive session and returned to vote on a plan to evaluate the current jail, look at future needs, and decide what action to take. The Court agreed to authorize a committee to study the matter with Sheriff Gerald Yezak given the task of nominating 5 to 7 County property owners to serve or nominating a larger pool and giving the Court the responsibility of choosing 5 to 7 from among the nominated to serve on the committee. The panel approved the plan and adjourned.

Melissa Freeman / Robertson County News

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