By Anton Riecher
Medina County Commissioners addressed a variety of topics at the Sept. 13th meeting, including hearing a couple speakers from the Democratic and Republican parties.
Medina County Democratic Party chair Sandy Young warned that those caught stealing or defacing campaign signs for gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke will face “creative punishments” if the vandalism continues, she told county commissioners.
Rather than pursue charges under criminal law as misdemeanor offense, Young said she intends to prosecute those guilty under civil law which permits greater input into what eventual punishment the court levies.
“If we have input into what the civil punishments will be I can assure you that we will be very creative,” Young said.
Having raised five children Young said she was very experienced in devising punishments that fit the crime.
Young reported that large four-by-six foot signs for the O’Rourke campaign have been stolen or vandalized on at least 10 different occasions recently. At one location on Highway 90 in mid Hondo the sign was up less than eight hours.
“That sign has been vandalized three times,” Young said. “They have painted over it and changed ‘Beto’ to ‘ghetto,’ which is racist.”
Other times the offenders have been brazen enough to simply steal the signs and then use the stakes driven to post signs for their own candidates, she said. In response, Young said that cameras have been placed to record any further vandalism.
“It is a misdemeanor if it is charged as a crime,” Young said. “They will get a ticket and a slap on the hand.”
“I also want to say that it’s funny that they are only doing it to the Beto signs, which tells me they are really nervous,” Young said.
She also said she was just as willing to deal harshly with any Democratic candidates linked to the destruction of campaign signs.
“It is unethical, it’s theft and it’s a crime no matter how you cut it,” Young said. “
Also addressing the court during the public comments portion of the agenda, Robert Oberlender of Natalia, liaison for the Medina County Republican Party to area schools, presented the commissioners with an early prototype of a sign to be provided by the GOP to local campuses.
“The county Republican party is providing signs to every school campus in the county with the national motto of ‘In God We Trust,’” Oberlender said. “If the school received a donation of those signs state law now says they should publicly display them.”
He said the prototype presented to the commissioners was one drafted during the process of developing a “legally approved sign” in compliance with what the state law allows.
Oberlender also told commissioners he wanted to thank them for providing additional school resource officers to protect area schools in the wake of the Uvalde school shootings in May.
“I’ve talked to a couple of the superintendents,” he said. “We’ve got big problems. But that’s for a later discussion.”
In other action, the commissioners approved accounts payable totaling $574.164 as reported by County Treasurer Debbie Southwell. The commissioners also approved payment of utilities totaling $61,873.
“Everybody needs to keep the air conditioner at 85 degrees,” County Judge Chris Schuchart said.
Total combined funds ending in August was $29.3 million with total debt shown as $26.9 million, Southwell reports.
The commissioners approved service plans and assessment plans presented for public improvement districts in Potranco Acres, Potranco Oaks, Potranco Ranch and Potranco Gardens. Jay Juarez of McCall, Parkhurst and Horton explained that the original agreements establishing the PID need to be updated annually.
A Public Improvement District is a special district created by a city or county under the authority of Chapter 372 of the Texas Local Code. The statute allows for a city or county to levy a special assessment against properties within the district to pay for improvements to the properties within the District.
Within seven days of the court’s approval of the update orders that include both the service plan and assessment plant is added to the real property record, Juarez said. The plans include the average home value, the number of new homes being built, the assessment rate, the net assessable value, the projected revenue and anticipated costs.
However, Van Johnson, president of the Potranco Ranch Homeowners Association, challenged the home values used to calculate the proposed assessments. The assessments he had studied had home values estimated at $420,000 when the actual value is closer to $700,000, he said.
“The home values make the whole plan they are delivering to you incorrect because the home values are a lot more,” Johnson said.
Schuchart asked Juarez to look into the accessments issue and report back to the commissioners. However, on motion of Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre, seconded by Precinct 1 Commissioner Timothy Neuman, the court voted unanimously to approve the assessments.
In other subdivision related action, the commissioners approved an extension of the preliminary plat approval for units 14B, 15B, 16B, 18A and 18B in Hunters Ranch and unit 1 in Potranco West Phase II.
Andrew Ortega of MTR Engineers reported that all the homes were presently under construction and scheduled to be finished in six months. On a motion by Neuman, seconded by Sittre, the extension was approved.
Ortega also asked for final approval on units four and six of the Potranco Oaks subdivision located in precinct two off FM 1957. The homes are the last two units of the subdivision and were completed several week earlier.
Commissioners also gave preliminary approval for the Double Five Acres subdivision located in precinct four off FM 2200. Gary Allen of Allen & Associates explained that the owner had purchased a 10-acre tract west of Devine wanting to subdivide it into two five acre tracts for sale.
On motion of Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Beck, seconded by Precinct 3 Commissioner David Lynch, the subdivision approval was granted.
The commissioners also granted preliminary approval to subdivide a 4.6 acre tract of Encino Park Estates into three one-acre tracts and one 1.6 acre tract, all fronting on County Road 6723 in precinct 4.
Commissioners approved a quote for information technology services to migrate county records from its 26 servers to a secure government platform or “cloud” to improve efficiency. The most immediate impact on county operations will be improved email security.
The migration is expected to be completed next year, Schuchart said.
Only one local resident was heard from during public hearings on proposed speed limit reductions on CR 265 in precinct one and CR 443 in precincts one and three. The new speed limit on the affected portion of CR 265 is 40 miles per hour,
The new speed limit imposed on CR 443, also known as Cemetery Road, is 35 mph. Neither located previously has a posted speed limit.
Lynch noted that any county road without a specific posted speed limit automatically defaults to 60 mph.
Neuman reported that road work to expand Cemetery Road from 22 to 24 feet wide would resume next week, part of nearly five miles of paving that he expects to complete in the next few days. The county recently completed adding culverts along the Cemetery Road route.
The commissioners also approved the placement of stop signs on CR 381 at Hunters Ranch East in precinct two.
Sittre reported that with the help of his neighboring commissioners nearly 2.25 miles of new paving was completed in precinct two the previous day with plans for another two miles this week.
D’HANIS FLOOD PLAN
Commissioners Lynch told the court that a town hall meeting on Oct. 11 in D’Hanis to discuss a proposed flood mitigation project drew nearly 100 people.
“There was positive feedback from the landowners,” Lynch said.
Earlier this month, Medina County commissioners approved preparation of grant applications worth more than $7 million to finance both a county drainage plant and, in D’Hanis, a flood mitigation plan.
The D’Hanis meeting included a presentation by Westwood Professional Services, the company retained by the county to draft the application. There was also a tour of property that would be affected by the flood mitigation plan.
Schuchart informed the commissioners that Uvalde County district attorney Christina Mitchell Busbee has chosen to challenge the Fourth Court of Appeals decision in favor of Medina County and others regarding the former office of the 38th Judicial District attorney.
“We keep winning and she has now appealed it to the Supreme Court,” Schuchart said. “We hope that the Supreme Court denies writ which will mean it dies and we win.”
Medina County’s right to sell the building to the Medina County Appraisal District was challenged by Busbee, the district attorney now representing the 38th Judicial District after the state authorized Medina County to form its own district.
Despite the win in the Fourth Court of Appeals, the appraisal district opted to back out of the purchase after an 18 month delay.
Commissioners Beck asked Schuchart if Uvalde County was still “onboard” with the ownership challenge.
“Somebody is paying for it,” Schuchart said.
Schuchart told commissioners he has instructed that future meeting of the “Go Medina” development board be posted as workshop sessions for the court. The next meeting is 9 a.m., Oct. 25 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in La Coste.
By Anton Riecher