The December 16th, 2021 year closing Commissioners Court Meeting started at 10 a.m. The meeting included the presentation of an award to the Chief of Medina County Veteran Services, the preliminary approval of several subdivisions, the approval of a public hearing for the reduction of County Road speed limits and the distribution of ARPA Funds to broadband and water providers in Medina County. Commissioners Tim Neuman, Larry Sittre, David Lynch and Jerry Beck were all present, alongside County Judge Chris Schuchart.
Presenting an Award
The meeting began with the presentation of an award by Bob Certain, Chairman of National Ex-POWs to Ruben Gonzalez, the Chief of Medina County Veteran Services.
“Several years ago, a Vietnam POW that served and was with me in prison moved to the area and he spent over 2,000 days in prison and then never filed a claim with the DA,” Certain said.
Certain explained that they had jumped on the case, but the unnamed POW died, leaving only his wife who filed a DIC. A DIC, also known as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, is a tax free monetary benefit for the surviving spouses, children and parents of service members who died in the line of duty or survived and died of injury or illness.
“So we jumped on the case, trying to get it done but he died later and then his wife, we filed a DIC claim for his wife and we could not have done it without Ruben Gonzalez. So we wanted to present you and your team with certificates of appreciation for the work you did, and thank you for all that you do for veterans around the area but especially for us, those who were prisoners of war.”
The Introduction of Elyse Hernandez
The court then opened the floor for the County Agent Family and Community Health to the Medina County Extension Service Office (MCESO), as they introduced the finalist for their Engineering and Health Agent position: Elyse Hernandez.
Hernandez has a bachelor of science from UTSA, graduating with a 4.0 honors and an associate in teaching. She is a certified health specialist who has served as a master wellness volunteer for the Bandera County Program adult education.
“Even in the midst of the pandemic she was keeping the program running at top speed,” a MCESO Representative said. “So we’re excited to have her here in that position and I know she’ll be a great addition to the family.
Several Subdivisions Get Their Preliminary Approval
The court then moved on to the preliminary approval of several locations, starting with the Desert Willow Subdivision; located in precinct 3 off of County Road 642. 7 four-acre tracts that head towards Yancey along the County Road, the subdivision is planned to have a six-foot private road and is currently working to create a maintenance agreement with its home owners.
Valley Oaks Ranch Subdivision; located in Precinct 1 off of County Road 241, then had its preliminary approval, covering about 3 miles of land with 215 lots, made up of 4 acre tracts.
Next the court shifted their discussion to the potential preliminary approval Woodside Subdivision; Located in Precinct 2 off of County Road 366. Two representatives of Cope Engineering stepped up to address the concerns of the court concerning the subdivision.
Woodside contains 94 lots, made up of both 5-acre and 3-acre lots; water provided by Yancey, a 28-foot wide road and, according to Commissioner Larry Sittre, has an issue with ground level stability.
“The issue that I have is the soil down on the bottom,” Commissioner Sittre said. “Do ya’ll have a plan with what you’re going to do, to stabilize that soil?”
Sittre made a seesaw motion with his hands emphasizing and further explaining his concerns to the court.
“I’ve personally sat in the living rooms of at least three to five of these people with toilet paper bundled up to the floor…,” Sittre said. “I don’t know if you’re going to use a PID or not. If not, we’ll pay ya’ll to make sure that your engineer outs this in exactly, like your engineer said ya’ll would put it in, and you’re going to own it. I got phone call, after phone call, after phone call. This last summer I finally spent another $125,000 just as overlay in the subdivisions joining you just to level the streets with the curbs that raised up over a foot.”
County Judge Schuchart backed up Sittre’s claim with his own comment.
“So what we need is a preliminary approval and to make sure ya’ll understand where the Commissioner is coming from,” Schuchart said. “Just make sure we can satisfy that.”
Lastly, the vacate and replat of Lot 27 in Highway 90 Ranch, LTD Subdivision; located in Precinct 2off of County Road 469 had its public hearing and final approval.
Approval To Increase Drug Testing Fees For Defendants
Pre-trial Director, Darcy Hasty, took center stage to speak about the increasing fees for drug testing for defendants ordered to report to Pretrial Services.
“We’re going to go up from $12 per drug test to $15 per drug test for defendants to pay,” Hasty said. “I won’t accept any cash through my office and we only do money orders, so right now it’s harder for them (defendants) because they always want to overpay and then we end up having to send them back to go cash it. So it’ll be easier for them to pay it that way.”
The court approved this action as Hasty added that the change in price may also be beneficial as the prices for these drug tests are believed to be going up in the year 2022.
County Accepts Modified Grant Award
The court then moved to take action on the acceptance of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) Improvement modified grant award.
“This is the grant we’ve had in place for five years, four years and every year we get a little bit less,” Judge Schuchart said. “This year, as you can see, we’re getting a little less, but it helps pay for the indigent.”
Indigent services are health care programs created to aid low-income Texas residents who don’t qualify for other state or federal health programs.
The grant awarded to Medina County through the Indigent Defense Coordinator Program is $21,896. Lasting from October 10th, 2021 to September 30th, 2022 the money obtained by the county through this grant is meant specifically for indigent defense services.
The grant award states that the money used is expected to eventually be reimbursed by the county and quarterly progress reports are required to keep track of this.
‘The intended funding plan is to provide reimbursement of 80 percent of eligible program costs in the first year, 60 percent in the second year, 40 percent in the third year and 20 percent in the fourth and final year of Commission support.’
Approval of Public Notice for Approval of Lease Agreement with Hank
The court then made a motion and approved the creation of a public notice to eventually approve a Lease Agreement with Hank, Inc. This will allow HANK Inc to open its 3rd community foster home in Medina County. More foster homes are desperately needed in our region and HANK is doing everything they can to help meet that need and other needs of children in care of DFPS.
“We wanted to give the space to anybody that has a need or want to build a building that will be taking care of children that are neglected, which generally makes HANK the winner,” Judge Schuchart said.
Approval of Contract with CANCO Over Public Defender’s Office Renovations
Starting the conversation on the approval of the ratification contract Medina County had made with CANCO Construction for renovations for the Public Defender’s Office (PDO), Judge Schuchart began the discussion by specifying the project plans to the court.
“As you can see, they’re charging us $42,000 to redo over on the east end of the courthouse where two clerks’ offices are,” Judge Schuchart said. “We’re building out offices for the Public Defender’s Offices so they’re not all framed up on the third floor and CANCO is actually almost finished with that job.”
Judge Schuchart further explained that the $42,000 is only Medina County’s portion of the project to pay and that starting January the County will begin billing the PDO for their portion of the total, giving Offices two ways to eventually pay back the total.
“We’re going to start collecting rent from the PDO so we have a choice,” Judge Schuchart said. “We either let them pay it out and build it out or rent it. Rent is a better deal.”
Approval of Contracts Templet and Initial Distribution of ARPA Funds
Medina County received 2 million dollars in American Rescue Plan Act Funds. On Nov. 3rd, 2021 during a Special Commissioner Meeting the Medina County Commissioners Court approved several broadband and water providers those funds would be divided between, with plans to create a contract to ensure proper use of the money set for a later date.
When addressing these contracts written by Medina County, Judge Schuchart noted some key rules the providers would be working by.
“Medina County reserves the right to cancel the contract with any of these people at any time…I told the water providers that I met with Monday and the three broadband providers I met with yesterday that the rules are that you can only use it for capital improvements,” Judge Schuchart said. “We’re not using it for labor, we’re not using it for property expenses, if you lease ground you’re paying for that lease out of your money, not ours.
Schuchart explained that the money would be split between eight water providers, with the biggest providers of those selected getting around $700,000 to $800,000 and smaller providers getting around $15,000 with a chance to receive more if they are in need of a generator. For the three broadband providers the rules are a bit different, with each getting $200,000.
“You’re going to build towers, you’re going to build equipment, you’re going to build generators and you’re going to buy things that by law, you can capitalize on,” Judge Schuchart said. “That’s how we don’t get into people saying ‘I’m going to give my person a raise for doing this or that.’ The other rule is, if you don’t follow that rule we have a right to terminate.”
The County plans to further ensure the money is used in the correct way by having providers show receipts and proof that they’ve done the work before they are given the money, a plan and contract approved by the court.
Resignation and Appointment to Medina County Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone
Following this, the court approved Commissioner Tim Neuman’s resignation from the Medina County Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No.2, a position Neuman only spent four years in despite his term lasting from January 1st, 2017 to March 11th, 2023.
Immediately after this approval, to take Neuman’s place, the court took and approved the action to appoint Logan Marrs to the now vacant position. Having graduated from Texas State University with a major in Exercise and Sports and a minor in Business Management, Marrs also worked as the former project Manager for HLH Properties since February 2021.
Emergency Service District Re-appointment Requests
With both individuals in question agreeing to serve another term, the Medina County Emergency Service District #5 (MCESD) requested that the court consider re-appointing Cathy Gonzalez, serving as MCESD #5 Treasurer and Elizabeth K. Cargile, serving as MCESD #5 Secretary to their positions.
MCESD #5 also requested that the court consider appointing Maria Sanchez to their Board of Commissioners. Sanchez had originally served on the Board from 2014 to 2020 but had resigned after temporarily moving to another state for family reasons. Now returned, the Board requested that she be allowed to re-fill the position she had left that had remained unfilled since she left. Both requests were approved.
Speed Limit Public Hearing Notice Authorized
The court authorized the advertisement to the public for the public hearing to reduce the speed limit on County Road 468 between County Road 468 and County Road 4516; Located in Precinct 2.
Annex Building Change Order Approvals
The court then moved on to approving several change orders regarding the construction of the Courthouse Annex. These five change orders included requests such as providing electrical devices and cover plates to match existing ones, adding separate timer/switches to admin exhaust fans and providing roof drain covers. All proposed changes added together left the total at $36,055.
Lastly, the court then went into executive session to consult with their attorney over pending and contemplated litigation and regarding the deliberation of real property, eventually re-opening the meeting to approve actions discussed.
By Christian Toler