The first Commissioners Court Meeting of 2022 was held on January 13th at 9 a.m. With Commissioners Jerry Beck, David Lynch, Larry Sittre, and Timothy Neuman, alongside County Judge Chris Schuchart all present, the meeting included the approval of initial distributions of the American Rescue Act Funds for rural broadband and water providers, the potential creation of a County Sexual Assault Response Team, and the quitclaiming of the abandoned portion of a County Road.
Initial Distribution Of ARPA Funds Approval
The beginning of the Commissioners meeting was filled with discussion on the approval of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds Medina County had received would be distributed for and to what providers.
The discussion was started as the floor was quickly opened to public comment and Medina County resident Thomas Connors stood in front of the court to make his concerns heard.
“I’m a resident in the county and we haven’t seen rural broadband ever and the providers, that I’m understanding, that are being given money do not provide broadband speeds,” Connors said. “ They provide very low speeds at a very high dollar amount…”
In response to Connors’ words, Judge Chris Schuchart attempted to further explain the courts reasoning behind their decision to allocate the ARPA funds to the providers they had chosen.
“We approved 1.5 million dollars toward the rural broadband companies, so they can go out and put up towers across the county and hit places where there is not broadband today,” Judge Schuchart said. “…we learned during ‘snowmaggedon’ and other times like that that we had real problems so we’re helping them to improve their infrastructure so that they may also give better service. We’re not in the water business and we’re not in the broadband business, the county isn’t, so we’ll let those people who know what they’re doing expand on it.”
Requesting that the residents of Medina County at least be included in the choosing of whom the providers end up being, Connors responded.
“Can I request that the residents be a part of anything like that?” Connors said. “Because we’re the ones receiving, supposed to be receiving reliable broadband Internet. Especially with the kids going to school right now going to Zoom lessons. The ones that are providing Internet now in the country, you can’t go to class under that broadband.”
After hearing Connor’s piece and turning him over to one of the broadband provider representatives to directly explain his concerns, Judge Schuchart told the public that they had created 11 contracts total.
“…Three of them are with the three local broadband companies ….the other eight are with the water companies and over the past two or three months I’ve met with all of them,” Judge Schuchart said.
Schuchart said that they would be distributing to water companies specifically based on how many connections they had, providers could only buy what they could capitalize on and use to improve services for the people of the county and that the funds would be distributed in installments rather than with all the money up front.
After the provider received their funds and used it on what they had proposed to the court, they would then return with a receipt to prove they had kept their side of the deal. The process would continue from there.
With the court already leaning towards approving the disbursement of funds, Commissioner Larry Sittre chimed in on why he supported the decision, citing that he had a shortlist of about 14,000 homes in Precinct 2, with half of them being without reliable Internet.
“You know if you’re hooked up to a (Google) Fiber optic line you have nothing,” Sittre said.“I’m getting some service from (one of these local companies) right now and it’s just as good a Fiber. And I think with what the plans these people have; they’re going to cover us, Medina County…So I think this is a very good use of the money that we’re getting in, and probably the best use of money we’ve ever had in my 12 years of commissioners court to give back to the public.”
Vice President of the Texas Rural Water Association, Bruce Alexander, then stood up to share his gratitude with the court.
“I can tell you that while some counties have given some money to some water systems, there’s not one county in the state, not one county in the state that’s distributed it’s rescue plan funds at this level to all qualifiable water systems in their county,” Alexander said. “And I applaud all of ya’ll for doing that. I thank you for that, and rural water thanks you.”
The action was approved. Broadband providers receiving funds include: Rentworks and Sago Internet, both receiving $700,000 and Cascom (Castroville Computers) which will be receiving $25,000.
Water/Sewer providers receiving funds include: East Medina SUD which will be receiving $$718,715.06, Yancey WSC with $711,590.06, West Medina WSC receiving $97,590.73, Hwy 90 Ranch WSC receiving $22,364.54, Medina County WCID 2 who will receive $50,218.56, Benton City WSC which will get $289,722.48, New Alsace WSC which will get $13,622.04 and Medina River West WSC who will be receiving $96,167.53.
When asked about what East Medina SUD planned to do with their portion of the fund, Alexander said they have two primary goals.
“We’re putting in stand-by generators, two of them at two of our facilities,” Alexander said. “We have some but we’ve added two stand-by generators to ensure that we can keep the water flowing in the event of a repeating of last year, with the power outage.”
Alexander further explained, “And the second one, very important: we’re building a new half million gallon water storage tank…we’re building that in the Pearson area to ensure that we have the capacity to grow in the Natalia, Devine, Lacoste service area. The generators will cost us on average about $90,000 a piece and the water tank is $950,000. Now, we’re getting $700,000, but I just told you about 1.2 million dollars of need. $700,000 goes a long way in helping to fray that cost.”
Potranco Oaks Subdivision, Unit 4 Preliminary Approval
Nearing the final phases of it’s development, the Potranco Oaks Subdivision, Unit 4 located in Precinct 2 off of Potranco Road (FM 1957) had it’s preliminary approval. With 30 residential lots and half-acre homes averaging around $700,000 each, the subdivision also had public sewer and water with all else being private.
On behalf of their client, Alma Flores of Offsets 21 LLC, Rakowitz Engineering & Surveying requested a variance to Section 22.214.171.124. of the Medina County Subdivision regulations specifying that the minimum frontage on every lot be on a County Road be 60ft.
Described in short to be shaped much like a pizza slice, lot 17 of the Peanut Valley Subdivision; Located in precinct 3 off of County Road 6825sat as the main subject of concern in this conversation.The request made by Rakowitz Engineering described the lot and it’s situation in detail.
“This lot tapers wider as the lot extends away from the CR. Therefore, the minimum 60ft width can be met 41ft back away from the CR for the remainder of the lot width. The proposed lot widths at the County Road are 56ft in which are just 4ft short of the 60ft minimum. The entire three lots have minimum widths for all of the lot depth except the 41ft at the CR.”
Commissioner Lynch started the conversation off with his thoughts on the situation and why he had backed bringing the suggested action to the court to begin with.
“The question was posed to me of the reason for our 60 foot county road rule,” Commissioner David Lynch said.“I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t know if it was something we just picked or if there was a reason behind it, I guess for a replat like this. So I thought: ‘welp, we’re within a few feet of that, we’re at 56ft and you know, if they wanted to try to a variance they could without changing the design that they presented to us.”
According to the request of variance, Rakowitz Engineering further explained within their documented request, “per Section 126.96.36.199, Commissioners Court may grant a variance from minimum lot width requirement where it finds that the proposed lot widths at the CR have widths of 56ft but reach 60ft wide minimum for the remainder of the lots 41ft off the CR.”
Opposing the potential decision to grant the variance, Commissioner Jerry Beck told the public why he wasn’t for the idea of making the exception as it might set an expectation for rules to be bent in the future.
“My deal on the 60 feet rule we’ve got in place is that it’s just a couple feet of difference now, but the next person comes in and their’s is a little less,” Commissioner Beck said. “Then they’ll say ‘well it’s only a couple feet of difference, and we’ve already changed it before.’ So I think that would defeat the purpose that we have a rule in place.”
Ultimately denying the request for a variance, the item was moved to the next coming Commissioner Court meeting’s agenda to give Rakowitz Engineering time to search for another potential solution to present to the court later.
Creation Of A County Sexual Assault Response Team
The court then moved to take action on the potential creation of a County Sexual Assault Response Team required by the legislature.
Julie Solis from the Medina County Criminal District Attorney’s office headed the conversation.
“So this is required by the code…It is an independent program outside law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office in regards to adult sexual assault,” Solis said. “We have a multi-disciplinary team in this county for child sexual assault cases, but not for adults. So the commissioner’s county office, according to the code, will help develop it but we will not run that program because it’s independent.”
Solis said that the first report from this team would be due to the commissioner’s December 1st of 2022.
The report to the court would address questions such as “How is the program doing? How are the survivors of sexual abuse being treated in our county, how many prosecutions, how many cases are being reported to law enforcement?” Solis explained.
The document was read, further explaining what the courts expectations would be for establishing this team and assigning the team members to that team.
This team would require positions such as the chief administrator, a prosecutor with jurisdiction within the county, the chief or chief’s designee, the sheriff or sheriff’s designee, a sexual assault nurse examiner or forensic examiner, a representative from the largest health care provider operating in the county, a behavioral health services provider operating in the countyand other persons the presiding officer may recommend.
“So we’ll start, upon ya’lls approval, getting that program up and running,” Solis said.
Abandoning A Portion Of CR 6843
The court then approved the action of abandoning a portion of CR 6843 within the Twin Lakes Subdivision.
Twin Lake is located between Lytle and Natalia, and Mayor Ruben Gonzales visited the commissioner’s court to explain why he wanted to propose a road closure in that area, an action to abandon a portion of County Road 6843.
“We’ve had a littering problem,” Mayor Gonzalez said.“From the northern part of the intersection of the road down to the edge of the lake we’ve had problems with people just dumping tires and dumping trash. The city has invested in cleaning up, but within two weeks, all of a sudden, it came back. So the council has decided that we want to go ahead and close that portion off.”
With this move, the City of Lytle hopes to be able to better maintain the area. Mayor Gonzalez said they have plans to close up their side with a gate that would be able to be opened during emergencies for emergency vehicles and that the move should not cut anyone off from their properties.
InterLocal Agreement with RPDO for Capital Cases
The court then quickly made a motion to approve the FY 2022/2023 InterLocal Agreement with the Regional Public Defender Office Local Government Corporation (RPDO) for Capital Cases.
The agreement made between the Regional Public Defenders Office Local Government Corporation (RPDO) and Medina County Texas states that the programs purpose is to have the RPDO provide court appointed counsel for those charged with the offense of capitol murder.
“Subject to the terms and conditions outlined herein, the RPDO will represent defendants at the trial or re-trial phase only,” the agreement reads.
This agreement would apply to all participating counties, including Medina, with each county’s participatory costs are based upon funding received from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC).
“The remaining portion of the program’s budget is cost-sharing commensurate with all eligible counties’ applicable inclusion in the program,” the agreement states.
With the current InterLocal Agreement already expired September 30th, 2021, the new agreement had automatically renewed and began on October 1st, 2021 and is set to expire September 30th, 2022.
The FY2022 and FY2023 cost for Medina County will be $20,001 for both years.
Fire Alarm Functional Testing Agreement
The court then approved of the Fire Alarm Functional Testing Agreement with Beckwith for the Old Jail Building
“This is a renewal costing $684 annually,” Judge Schuchart said.
For the Medina County Old Jail Building, Beck’s testing would occur semi-annually with the added cost of optional equipment repair and labor plans adding an extra $342 annually to the bill.
2021 Allocations for Nueces Basin
The 2021 Allocations for Administrative Expenses Associated with Senate Bill 8 Regional Flood Planning Program for the Nueces Basin explains the Nueces River Authority has been meeting since October 2020 with the intent to develop a plan to protect regions of Texas from the disaster of flooding.
The organization further explains that they hope “to protect an estimated population of 782,528 living in the 24,094 square mile area identified by the Texas Water Development Board as Regional Flood Planning Area 13. The area contains approximately 17,044 miles of streams, 5 major lakes and reservoirs. The area accounted for national flood insurance claims of $270,467,109 from 1975 to 2019.”
Judge Schuchart explained to the court what this meant for Medina County.
“So the Texas Legislature passed a bill creating the Nueces River Authority which covers about, I think, 13 counties,” Judge Schuchart said.“We’re a part of it and of course the Texas Legislature had created it but didn’t quite fund it…They’re trying to distribute the cost out amongst all the different regions that they covered, and our cost allocation is $3000.”
Quitclaiming the abandoned portion of County Road 672
Approving this action the court them moved on to discuss the potential action of quitclaiming the abandoned portion of County Road 672; located in Precinct 3 to Gordon Gentry.
Commissioner Lynch said that this is something he has been working on getting done for quite some time.
“It’s an extension of CR 672, which was never built…” Commissioner Lynch said. “It’s never been a road, it’s never been named or maintained…nobody uses it and so we’d just like to get it off this plat basically because it’s not even a road, it doesn’t exist but it’s still showing up on his property.”
Lastly the court approved several change orders.
The first order was made for the Medina County Jail Addition and included requests to add provide temporary power to CU due to original design power source coming from Housing area panel, which was not complete at the time that the admin area HVAC was needed.
The next several change orders were directed at the Medina County Annex, including requests such as adding poke thru plugs at 2nd floor courtrooms, costs to demo and reconstruct ramp and sidewalk at intersections of 13th and Ave N and to change out all office thumb turns with dummy cylinders.
The total cost for all change orders combined is $16,219.50.
By Christian Toler