Commissions through lengthy agenda last Monday

By Robert Morales —

County Commissioners reviewed a lengthy 22-item agenda on Monday. Representatives from Pritchard & Abbott gave commissioners a quick synopsis of the appraisal process as it affects recent increased oil and gas activity in the county. They provided information on the valuation process for oil, gas and mineral interests as well as historical statistical maps showing consistent growth in oil and gas production in the northern part of the county. Although they were unable to provide firm figures on how much revenue this recent activity will bring to the county, the representatives were extremely optimistic that 2013 figures would exceed the 2012 revenue considerably, which is good news for the county.

Commissioners then heard from City Administrator Fran Malafronte, who requested that the county contribute the same amount as the Town of Van Horn does to support the City-County Library. According to Ms. Malafronte, the city contributed $69,000 toward the $110,000 cost of the library last year, and it had been suggested that the county was going to contribute half the expenses.

Because the county contributed $42,000, Ms. Malafronte stated that the shortfall would mean that the city would have to charge the county regular water rates for the cemetery to recoup the shortfall. Commissioners tabled the matter until the next meeting and instructed County Auditor Mark Cabezuela to look for funding to make up the shortfall.

Commissioners then turned their attention to discussion about the 2013 Texas Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Community Facilities Grant in the amount of $184,000.
Commissioners heard from Grant Administrator Becky Brewster for the previous $300,000 grant, which was responsible for building the new fire station on Broadway.

Ms. Brewster reported that approximately $165,000 of the 2013 grant was to finish the inside of the firehouse, enlarge one garage door to enable a regular size fire truck to be housed there, and for paving the front of the building.

The remainder of the funds was to go toward the purchase of a new ambulance. Ms. Brewster also reported that the only architectural firm that submitted a proposal for the grant was Grimes & Associates, the same firm that provided the initial work for the first phase of the fire station.

Ms. Brewster was questioned about having to use Grimes & Associates for this year's grant since the firm did not consider the mirrors on the fire trucks when installing the doors at the fire station. The miscalculation of excluding the width of the mirrors has caused consternation with commissioners and the fire department crew because the new fire trucks don't fit in the new fire station.

Commissioners commented that for $24,000 that the firm was paid, the firm should have exercised more due diligence in their specifications. The court also decided that county employees could finish out most of the interior so that an engineer would only be needed for guidance on enlarging the doors and paving to grant specifications. The excess funds could then be used toward the purchase of a new ambulance.

County Judge Carlos Urias then reported to the court that he had received two proposals for grant management services, one from A.J. Howco, who is doing the HOME grants, and Marbeck Consulting Services, which is owned by Ms. Brewster. Judge Urias stated that he and a committee had reviewed the proposals and recommended Marbeck since the proposals were comparable.

In other matters, commissioners authorized the purchase of a new printer and software update by Hart Intercivic for the upcoming election on November 5. A motion to close all county offices on that date also passed unanimously.

Mollie Hernandez, County Tax Assessor/Collector presented the 2013 tax rolls and tax discounts for approval, which passed unanimously.

Judge Urias then presented a request to enter into an agreement with El Paso Electric to provide lighting at the Big Bend Community Action office where the TRAX vehicles are parked because of continued theft of gasoline from the vehicles and as a safety precaution for employees. Judge Urias also recommended Lisa Cottrell and Dolores Urias to serve on the tax appraisal board for the 2014 through 2015.

Commissioners unanimously voted to authorize Judge Urias to enter into an agreement for administrative management services for the Home Housing Rehabilitation Assistance Program and approved a contract with A & J Howco Services, Inc., for HOME Administrative Management Services through October 2017.  They also adopted a resolution authorizing Judge Urias to enter into agreement for Housing Provider services for a HOME grant for a Homeowner Rehabilitation Assistance Program, and approved a contract with Howco Services for HOME Housing Provider services through October 2017 for a total of 15 new houses.

Commissioners adjourned after changing the date of the November commissioners court meeting from Nov. 11 to Nov. 12 because of the Veteran's Day holiday.