November 27, 2019 - The Shelby County Commissioners' Court approved orders relating to motor vehicle drug interdiction and reserve officers earlier this month and have accepted the resignation of one Justice of the Peace. These and a variety of other important issues have been considered and some approved.
There were two items discussed in executive session by the Shelby County Commissioners' Court during their November 6, 2019 which were approved when the meeting reconvened into open session.
After the closed session meeting between the commissioners and the county's outside attorney, Robert Davis, they approved an order on motor vehicle drug interdiction programs and task forces.
According to Allison Harbison, Shelby Country Judge, the order states no funds will be appropriated for motor vehicle interdiction and task force programs.
The order reads as follows: Shelby County, its elected officials, appointed officials, employees and those governmental offices supported by funding from Shelby County will not engage in any motor vehicle drug interdiction task force, without the express prior approval of the Shelby County Commissioners' Court.
Any such approval must first be posted on the agenda of a regularly scheduled Commissioners' Court meeting and approved by a majority vote of the Shelby County Commissioners' Court. No funds appropriated by Shelby County may be used to support any motor vehicle drug interdiction program or task force.
The Shelby County Commissioners' Court may amend the Shelby County Budget or take other appropriate budgetary action to support and enforce this policy. This policy is effective immediately upon adoption and shall remain effective until expressly modified or vacated by the Shelby County Commissioners' Court.
This order does not effect or impact any other drug related law enforcement activity other than a motor vehicle drug interdiction program or task force. The Commissioners' Court finds the motor vehicle drug interdiction programs or task forces are best handled and run by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which has better training and funding to support such programs and task forces.
The order was then signed by all commissioners and the county judge.
The second order, to be added to the personnel policy, states no district or county law enforcement agency, funded by the county, can retain reserve officers without prior Commissioners' Court approval. This includes State District and County prosecutors.
Motions carried in each instance to approve both orders.
Teddy Hopkins, Shelby County Historical Commission Chairperson, then addressed the commissioners over a grant which has been in development for the restoration of the Annex building on the Center square.
Several options the commission is looking at were named off by Hopkins. He suggested the organization may re-apply to the Texas Historical Commission (THC) for a grant which may not be made available until 2020. Another potential option is to perform a market study indicating what the building would eventually look like and an outline of what its use would be. A courthouse grant application has been suggested; however, Hopkins said the courthouse grant fund would not have money for that particular building. A fourth potential option mentioned by Hopkins was to undertake one project at a time and "piecemeal" the entire undertaking of working on the structure.
"We decided to proceed with a master plan as had been initially planned, but focusing only on just one part of the master plan," said Hopkins.
The master plan is made up of two components, including physical aspects laying out the needs of the building. Hopkins explained that includes a structural assessment; mechanical, electrical and plumbing assessment; code assessments and accessibility as far as Americans with Disabilities Act codes. Also included would be conceptual schematics and diagrams of the proposed facility, cost estimates.
A program and market study may also be performed.
Hopkins proposed the county and city could each benefit from the work performed on the Annex building. The consultant projects the master plan would cost around $45,000 for the physical evaluation.
Judge Harbison expressed a desire to see the historic courthouse included in the master plan since she stated it would be a lot easier to get finding for the courthouse than for the Annex. Hopkins said he would speak with the consultant about that possibility and the potential of including the historic jail as well.
Judge Harbison asked Vickie Martin, Shelby County Historic Commission Secretary, if the master plan had been for the whole court yard. Martin explained it did not.
"We were hoping at the beginning to maybe do the master plan for the old courthouse and piggyback the Annex," said Martin.
She further suspected including the courthouse in the plan could increase the cost by another $50,000. She didn't believe bundling the two would decrease the overall cost.
Hopkins said he believes it could potentially double or triple the total cost to include all three buildings since a previous plan from 2000 listed the courthouse itself at 25,000 sq, feet while the Annex is 5,600 sq. feet.
Major work which already has been completed on the courthouse as a result of that plan was a large investment of funds according to Hopkins.
"Reading minutes from Ms. Sandra Brownlow several years ago noted that project was $1.8 million just to do that courthouse," said Hopkins. "I don't know how much of Shelby County funds was part of that, but I think TxDOT was the one that did that remodel."
It was determined the plan would still move forward for the master plan and the consultant on the project would be available for a future commissioners court meeting to speak with the Commissioners' Court.
A motion carried to approve the FY2019 ending cash balance for each Road and Bridge precinct.
A motion then carried to adjust the FY2020 Budgeted Fund Carryover for each road and bridge precinct. The amounts included in the motion were as follows: Precinct 1 - $117,955.32; Precinct 2 - $90,678.88; Precinct 3 - $57,975.79: Precinct 4 - 65,601.29.
Another motion then carried to adjust the FY2020 Expense Budget Line Item for each road and bridge precinct and to move those funds to Fixed Assets.
Margie Anderson, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, submitted a letter of resignation for the consideration of the Commissioners' Court. She stated in her letter she would like her last day to be December 31, 2019.
A motion was made to accept her resignation for December 31, 2019 and discussion followed.
Judge Harbison referenced the State election code referencing a vacancy previous to December 4. She explained the vacancy need not be literal before December 4 since the commissioners are knowledgeable of the vacancy before that time.
"I have spoken with Ms. Jennifer [Fountain], I consulted with one of the party chairs and they all agree that this would need to go on the Primary next year," said Judge Harbison.
The position on the ballot would be for the unexpired term, which would then be two years. If someone were to be appointed, Judge Harbison explained the commissioners would have to add it to the agenda for consideration.
Commissioner McSwain said he would hope the court would decide to stay neutral and allow the people to decide who would fill the position. Meanwhile for Texas Department of Public Safety to decide which Justice of the Peace would handle those citations from precinct 3 until the position is filled.
Gary Rholes, County Attorney, shared with the court when an office holder resigns under what is called the holdover statute, that office holder is still that office holder until a successor has been duly qualified. Meaning Margie Anderson will remain the office holder until another is duly qualified.
The commissioners then voted to accept Judge Anderson's resignation.
The commissioners canvassed the November 5, 2019 general election during their November 13, 2019 meeting and just as they were to consider the item, County Clerk Jennifer Fountain addressed the commissioners.
"I want to thank all of you commissioners once again for having your guys help us last week," said Fountain. She also thanked one particular commissioner who helped as well.
"Y'all have no clue, I've got 14 precincts of happy judges that don't have to lug that heavy stuff back and forth anymore," said Fountain.
She expressed how highly appreciated the commissioners are for the help they provided.
"I really do appreciate all the help that y'all give us with moving that equipment, it does not go unnoticed at all, and I really do appreciate your men," said Fountain.
Judge Harbison read off some of the statistics of the election stating there are 15,215 registered voters and the total votes cast were 2,045.
A motion carried to canvas the votes for the November 5 constitutional amendment election.
As the commissioners considered the weekly expenses, Precinct 1 Commissioner Roscoe McSwain wanted to comment on a particular bill turned in for payment. The bill was from Toledo Automotive Napa in San Augustine totaling $6,357, which he remarked would be out of the ordinary to be charged to that Napa.
McSwain explained it was for an engine rebuild kit for a maintainer, which had been in for repair over the past three months.
Reed Martin with Martin Walker, PC was scheduled to give an update on the notice and findings for Opioid Litigation as they represent the county. Martin indicated his purpose in being at the meeting was for Judge Harbison to sign a public notice and findings he stated were previously provided to the commissioners; however, these findings were not divulged for public consumption during the meeting.
Martin gave a history of their occupation as representative of the county in the litigation, stating they began in 2017 and a change in statute since that time now has the legislature requiring approval of the Attorney General instead of Comptroller approval as relates to the litigation.
Martin offered to speak with the commissioners and county judge in executive session at a future time. He stated, "everything is going fine."
A motion carried to approve the findings and sign paperwork needing to be signed relating to the opioid litigation.
The commissioners further discussed possible avenues relating to the office of Margie Anderson, Justice of the Peace Precinct 3; however, no definitive result was heard from those discussions at this time other than they will continue.
During the November 20, 2019 meeting of the Commissioners' Court two bills considered in the weekly expenses were brought up for discussion in reference to the content of one in particular and its late arrival.
Commissioner McSwain indicated a bill for Center Automotive Repair for a 2009 Crown Victoria. Ann Blackwell, Treasurer, said the bill was from February when the District Attorney's office was using the car and it was taken to the mechanic for repair. Blackwell said she contacted the District Attorney and he thought he sent the bill over and tried to pay for the repair quickly. Blackwell contacted Gary McDonald, owner of Center Automotive Repair for the bill so it could be paid.
The second bill was for work being done on fencing surrounding the Sheriff's Department, and the amount fits in a regular withdrawal for work on the fence plus additional work on a gate.
Agenda items approved during the November 6th meeting include: 1. Pay weekly expenses. 2. Order stating no funds will be appropriated for motor vehicle interdiction and task force programs. 3. Order, to be added to the personnel policy, states no district or county law enforcement agency, funded by the county, can retain reserve officers without prior Commissioners' Court approval. This includes State District and County prosecutors. 4. Recognize the FY2019 ending cash balance for each road and bridge precinct. 5. Adjust the FY2020 Budgeted Fund Carryover for each road and bridge precinct. 6. Adjust the FY2020 Expense Budget Line Item for each road and bridge precinct. 7. Accept Justice of the Peace Margie Anderson’s resignation effective December 31, 2019. 8. Adjourn. Agenda items approved during the November 13 meeting: 1. Minutes of the October 2, 2019 Special meeting, October 9, 2019 Regular meeting, October 16, 2019, Special meeting, October 23, 2019 Special meeting, and October 30, 2019 Special meeting of the Shelby County Commissioner’s Court. 2. Pay weekly expenses. 3. Current Payroll 4. Officers Report. 5. Canvas votes for the November 5th General Election. 6. Findings and sign paperwork needing to be signed relating to the opioid litigation. 7. Adjourn. Agenda items tabled during the November 13 meeting include: 1. Appoint an interim Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3. 2. Establish an office for the Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3. Agenda items approved during the November 20 meeting include: 1. Pay weekly expenses. 2. Adjourn.