By Becky Brewster
Culberson County Commissioners met in special session on October 1, 2020. Judge Carlos Urias administered the oath of office to Jose L. (Joe) Morales for the position of County Tax Assessor-Collector after the Court voted to appoint him to fill the position vacated by Amalia Hernandez upon her retirement. This appointment is valid through December 31, 2020 after which Morales will assume the position for the four-year term for which he was elected. Morales is the sole candidate for County Tax Assessor-Collector on the November 3, 2020 ballot. The Court approved Morales’ bonds as required for the County and State of Texas. The Commissioners also approved updating the signature cards at the Pecos County State Bank to reflect the changes.
The Court then approved the opening of County facilities from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. beginning October 5, 2020. Urias pointed out that the County is under the direction of the Supreme Court of Texas through the “Emergency Orders Regarding COVID-19 State of Disaster”. There have been 27 orders issued by the Supreme Court from March 13, 2020 through September 25, 2020. The restrictions requiring County Courthouses to be closed have been relaxed, and now permit regular operating hours. In line with this, early voting begins October 13 and the Clerk’s Office will be open from 8-5 to process the voters. Visitors to the Courthouse will still be screened upon entry.
County Clerk Linda McDonald reported on election issues noting that mail ballots will be sent out the week of October 5. She reported that the Green Party filed a lawsuit in the State which ultimately required all Counties to redo their ballots and update their programming to handle the mandated changes. This court decision overturned a prior decision on a lawsuit filed by the Democratic party to have the Green Party candidates declared ineligible for inclusion on the ballot. McDonald also noted that the Green Party subsequently tried to get straight party voting added back to the ballots which would have meant another reprint of the ballots. This put the mail ballots in limbo again. She just received word that HB 25 passed in 2017 to be effective 9-1-2020, which phased out straight party voting with this election, was upheld since there have been 3 years in which to protest the law.
In other County business, the Court also:
Approved the payment of Hernandez’ longevity pay upon her retirement, pending legal review.
Approved relocation of postage meter from the Courthouse to the Financial Center.
Approved the bond for Assistant Auditor.
Approved renewal of the interlocal agreement with Hudspeth County regarding the housing of inmates with an increase of $5/day, pending legal review of the agreement.
Received a COVID-19 case update noting 59 cases as of 10-1-2020 with 53 recoveries, 3 active, 1 death, and 2 lost communication.
Heard reports on various county projects.