Broadband company to get second round of large grants soon

On March 10th, the Medina County Commissioners Court meeting began at 9 a.m. Starting off with the pledge of allegiance, followed by a prayer led by Commissioner Jerry Beck the meeting consisted of discussions on grants and funds for various projects, budget amendments and the approval of rNetworks receiving their 2nd disbursement of funds from the ARPA funds for Broadband. Commissioners Jerry Beck, David Lynch, Larry Sittre and Timothy Neuman were all present for this meeting, with Commissioner Lynch heading up the meeting, in County Judge Chris Schuchart’s absence.
Approval of Payroll #14 and #5
To kick off the meeting the council swiftly approved both the Payroll #14 for the period ending in February 18th, 2022 and the Payroll #5 for the period ending March 4th, 2022 with little discussion.
TAC Cyber Security Training Approval
The council then approved Medina County’s participation in the TAC Cyber Security training for county employees. Moody further explained to the court what the employees would be asked to participate in.
“Yeah this is where every county employee that uses a computer has to go through the cyber security awareness training and we do it through tax,” Moody said. “So we have to sign that and send that back to them that we agree to participate in their program.”
The training will be done online and up to the individual employee to complete by the end of August.
Commissioner Court Meeting Minutes
Next the council quickly approved the Commissioners Court Meeting Minutes for January 27th, February 10th and February 17th for the year 2022.
County Budget Amendments
Following this Medina County Auditor, Eduardo Lopez, stepped up to the center podium to talk about the approval of budget amendments.
“Yes, we do have a budget amendment for the elections,” Lopez said.“We’ve received grants from Texas Secretary of State in the amount of $258,883. We just need ya’ll to approve this so that we can update our budget. Money has already been received and spent; this has been used to upgrade the software in all the voting machines.”
Line-Item Transfers
The budget amendments were approved and still tying into the subject of grants for election equipment, Lopez continued into the discussion of line-item transfers.
“So we originally had received a different grant for $120,000 that was going to be used to upgrade those machines,” Lopez said. “But since we’ve got that other grant now he (the Elections Administrator) is going to shift around that $120,000 from capital outreach to general supply contracts and equipment to be able to use that money for something else.”
The transfers were approved and commissioners ended the conversation with a show of gratitude to Elections Administrator Lupe C. Torres.
“All I can say is that everyone I know who voted loves the system we got,” Commissioner Sittre said.“Thank you for what you’ve done Lupe.”
EDA Broadband Grant – ARPA
Moving on the council then approved the payment of matching funds for the EDA Broadband Grant – from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA). Still at the head of the conversation, Lopez explained the situation to the court.
“We have $127,000 match on that EDA Broadband Grant, originally we got approved to pay for it out of general funds but we can use the revenue loss part of the ARPA money to pay for that $127,000,” Lopez said.
Commissioner David Lynch backed up this explanation by clarifying.
“This is the broadband grant we did awhile back, not the money we’re giving out of ARPA…” Commissioner Lynch said. “Yeah, it was going come from the general fund but now we can pay for it out of ARPA.”
Approving Advertising For Sealed Bids
Moving on now to address where this grant money was going to be used, the council approved the authorization to advertise for sealed bids for construction relating to the EDA Broadband grant.
Commissioner Lynch said that the grant would be used for construction and fiber and that the approval of this item would now allow Medina to advertise for bids from interested Broadband companies. An explanation, again, further backed up by Lopez.
“…for trenching and laying the fiber,” Lopez said. “And just to make everyone aware CommZoom cannot be a part of this bid because they were a part of the initial planning and cost estimate for the entire project.”
Health & Human Services WIC Program Van Donation

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The council then took action to approve the on acceptance of a modified van donated by Health & Human Services to the Medina County WIC Program. WIC is a supplemental nutrition program focusing on pregnant woman, breastfeeding woman and mothers of infants.
“We were originally supposed to get money for this van but instead the state purchased six of them and donated one of the vans to the WIC program, they already have it,” Lopez said. “We just need to officially accept it and put it into our assets.”
2nd Installment ARPA Funds For rNetworks
After accepting this donation, the council started on a discussion about the potential approval of 2nd installment payment to rNetworks using ARPA Funds based on the disbursement of ARPA Funds between Broadband and water systems in Medina County. rNetworks was one of the broadband companies chosen to receive $200,000 to use on projects focused on bettering Medina County and went into a contract with the county, promising to submit receipts and invoices for anything they planned to use the given money on.
“So rNetworks submitted all their invoices and they submitted their bank statement which ties to all their invoices,” Lopez said. “They spent $196,238 that they’ve actually paid, they’re still pending a $2,000 payment but they’re right there close to the $200,000 mark. They’re requesting they’re second installment of $200,000.”
Lopez then said that they haven’t had the chance to visit the company and take a look at what they were doing yet, raising some concerns for both him and the court.
“We have tasked them to submit all the documentation to us…We were not tasked to go out there and take a look at it, we just took that on ourselves,” Lopez said. “I just didn’t feel comfortable with them receiving any more and not seeing what was actually being purchased. So once I get out there, I’ll feel a little more comfortable.”
The council agreed with this idea with Commissioner Lynch sharing exactly what the court wanted to know on their end before moving forward.
“I’d just like to know, probably like the rest of the commissioners, if we’re paying $200,000 for towers and equipment, there is actually a tower and equipment,” Commissioner Lynch said.
Approval Of Accounts Payable
The2nd installment was approved and the council moved on to address the approval of accounts payable, with County Treasurer, Debbie Southwell, now taking the lead on the conversation. Southwell explained that the total accounts payable came out to $1,121, 298.13, including the recently approved $200,000 to rNetworks.
Commissioner Larry Sittre than followed her up with his own report on the price of oil and how that has heavily affected their current budget numbers.
“I just want everyone to be aware of what’s going on with fuel and our material budget,” Commissioner Sittre said. “So what we budgeted back probably in July and August, we could be running 40% short. A minimum of 40% short, because the barrel has gone up about 22% since we’ve done the budget, so we’re going to get wrecked on this thing. …Just for oil, so that jumps from $5,000 in oil to $10,000 oil.”
The court, along with Lopez, agreed to potentially make some line-item transfers and work the budget around in an attempt to lighten the effect of oil on the budget.
Disbursement Of Funds
The court then approved the disbursement of funds since the last Commissioners Court Meeting, which came out to a total of $12,079.82.
Financial Northeastern Companies – Approvals
Quickly following this, the court also approved the adding of Financial Northeastern Companies as a broker/dealer for Medina County.
“I did not include them in our investment policy in October, but they’ve come out with some excellent CV Rates which we jumped on,” Southwell said. “So I’m going back to clean up.”
Tying into this the non-corporate Resolution adding Jennifer Konegni, Assistant County Treasurer, as an authorized representative with Financial Northeastern Companies was also approved.
“It’s so she can move funds and I don’t have to be there to do it,” Southwell said. “She will be authorized to move funds if we need it.”
Fuel Cards Change
Lastly, the court approved the handing out of new fuel cards due to Groff Oil Company ownership change.
“We applied for FuelMan but they declined our application because they could not verify our new address, we are working with them on it,” Southwell said.
Southwell also explained that because of the address issue, the application is likely to be rejected again until it can be sent up to FuelMan upper management where it may be looked at more closely. Until then, Medina County has opted to hand out alternative cards.
“In the meantime we’ve got Chevron cards that we will hand out next Thursday and Friday for the departments that are using ValleyMart…Since ValleyMart cards are going away they will be replaced by Chevron. But we’re still trying to get the FuelMan cards because they can be used everywhere.”
The 9 a.m. meeting closed without visitor or guest comment.
By Christian Toler
News Correspondent