BY ROBERT MORALES
NAME: CARLOS G. URIAS
NAME: CARLOS G. URIAS
POSITION SOUGHT: COUNTY JUDGE
Carlos Urias is running for county judge. He was first elected in 2009. He is seeking re-election.
He was asked a series of questions that deal directly with his position as chief executive of Culberson County.
The first two years as county judge were more challenging than what he thought it would be. On the other hand, he said that he enjoys the “judgeâ€ part of the job because he takes a big interest in the law and applying it to the cases he hears.
“Commissionerâ€™s Court was not what I envisioned.,â€ said Mr. Urias. “For the first two years, I couldnâ€™t get some of the projects passed that would have been good for us. I had difficulties with some of the short-term goals and even some of the long-term goals because of the structure of the [commissionerâ€™s] court at that time.â€
Mr. Urias emphasized that since heâ€™s been in office, his focus has remained solely on the needs of the citizens. However, he said that things have changed for the better with the addition of new commissioners. “We have two new commissioners, and theyâ€™re a breath of fresh air,â€ he said. “While we donâ€™t agree on everything, weâ€™re getting things done. We have a court that is willing to do things that will benefit our people and not be here for selfish reasons.â€
Mr. Urias points at his first major challenge in office only a few months after being sworn in. It was a lawsuit against the county filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of county employees. The case was ultimately settled.
“That situation will not happen again,â€ said Mr. Urias. “After analyzing the facts surrounding the case, I asked â€˜what happened and who could have prevented this from happening?â€™â€ The answer, he said, was the office of the county judge. “In my opinion, when the complaints against the county were properly filed, they were ignored. In the future, if a complaint of any kind is filed through this office, we will do our due diligence and investigate the complaint. As far as I know, no investigation took place with the EEOC complaint.â€
As for finances, when Mr. Urias took office in 2009, although the countyâ€™s finances were in fair condition, he said that commissioners have since spent wisely, which in turn has boosted the countyâ€™s fund balance. “Weâ€™ve stayed within the structure of the budget and weâ€™ve accomplished a lot more. Unfortunately, so much more is needed.
For example, Mr. Urias noted that the county needs to spend more dollars on infrastructure. He said the airport needs renovations, such as extending the primary runway by at least 2,000 feet to allow larger jets to take off and land here. As for repairs, he said that more than 30 runway lights must be repaired because the lights were vandalized. Mr. Urias said the county had applied for a grant that will help pay for the lights.
In 2014, Mr. Urias said it would be a priority to upgrade the airportâ€™s lighting and to install a weather radar system. The airport is used primarily by Blue Origin, large ranch owners and oilfield companies. He said it is critical for commissioners to approve improvements at the airport to keep the current traffic and to possible increase usage by other companies.
Mr. Urias explained that Texas Department of Transportation helps counties up to $50,000 a year or 50-percent of every project. “Thereâ€™s a big difference between maintaining and upgrading infrastructure,â€ he said. “We canâ€™t continue to do only maintenance on our buildings and other infrastructure.â€
Aside from the airport, Mr. Urias said commissioners need to take a hard look at a new jail facility. The jail has had little to no improvements since it was built in the early 1960s. The jail has been housing inmates from other facilities, which translates into added revenue for the county. Logically, a larger, more modern jail would meet all the state requirements for local inmates as well as an added revenue source for the county.
Mr. Urias said that in 2011 he recommended a proposal to commissioners regarding a new jail facility, but the measure failed to pass on a 3-2 vote. “This is the difficulty I came across on a regular basis with the former court. Those individuals have been replaced, and now we can work together for the betterment of the people. If youâ€™re not in for the people, then get out of politics.â€
Another building that needs significant repairs, Mr. Urias said, is the former Big Bend Community Action, where the new food pantry will be housed. “Weâ€™re working on finding a way to get the food bank in there as quickly as possible.â€
In addition, the current Big Bend Community Action and MHMR need roof repairs because of leaks, said Mr. Urias. He said a short-term solution is to install canopies over the roof so that water will not enter the building when it rains. Also, the former JP Precinct 1 building on Broadway needs repairs on the eastside wall. The building now houses the auditor and the treasurerâ€™s office.
In 2013, commissioners approved a separate Buildings and Maintenance Department to address the maintenance of county-owned properties as the need arises.
In regard to his re-election, Mr. Urias said he would like to see the county take advantage of opportunities that have previously been quashed by former commissioners. One example he cited was the instant defeat of a detention center several years ago that would have built on county property. That facility eventually was built in Hudspeth County outside Sierra Blanca.
Also, Mr. Urias said, that the current home-building campaign will continue as long as heâ€™s county judge. Last year five houses were built and five more will be built this year. Itâ€™s a win-win situation, he said. Older, dilapidated homes are rebuilt while adding more ad valorem tax revenue.
Finally, Mr. Urias said that it is vital that the county continue renewing grants and seeking out new grants because these dollars donâ€™t come out of the countyâ€™s budget. For example, a TxDOT grant will fund nearly $600,000 to county roads that have been torn up by the gas activity in north Culberson County. Similarly, Sheriff Oscar Carrillo has applied for a six-figure grant to help defray fuel costs.
Likewise, Mr. Urias said the county must continue to “embrace technology.â€ He said that had commissioners in 2012 approved a grant to upgrade the disposition of cases, the county would have saved about $250,000. The state requires counties to report court cases at every phase, and counties must have at least a 90-percent disposition rate.
After changes were implemented, the countyâ€™s failing rate has since gone up to 93 percent, according to Mr. Urias. However, Mr. Urias laments the fact that the previous court put a huge financial burden on the current court. Had the court approved the grant in 2012, it would have paid for three new vehicles, fuels and maintenance, said Mr. Urias.
Mr. Urias was asked to tell the voters why he should be re-elected. This is his statement:
“I think Iâ€™ve done a good job. I think Iâ€™m deserving of another four years. I enjoy coming to work every day. I pray every morning before coming to work. Iâ€™m here for the people. Iâ€™ve maintained an open-door policy, and that will continue if I have the privilege of serving another four years.â€