By Becky Brewster
Culberson County Commissioners met in regular session on June 14, 2021. The Court welcomed Judge Carlos Urias back to the helm to preside over his first meeting since October 2020. The Commissioners and staff honored him with a standing ovation at the end of the meeting to celebrate his return and his successful fight to overcome the effects of COVID-19.
Commissioners learned that the extension of the contract for the Culberson County Food Pantry grant had been approved by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The building should arrive by the end of the month. The Court was also informed that the project received supplemental funds through the Permian Basin Area Foundation to complete those items that were deducted from the contract due to insufficient funds in the grant budget. This will allow for the completion of the interior to include HVAC and walk-in refrigerator and freezer as well as the exterior sidewalks and accessible parking.
County/District Clerk Linda McDonald reviewed the latest Supreme Court Emergency Order #38 and the updated Best Practices and 394th District Court 2021 Standing Order for in-person proceedings. She covered topics such as continued courthouse security and requirements for admittance to the building during court proceedings. These protocols will still require the COVID-19 safety measures such as temperature checks, masks (if not vaccinated), and social distancing. She noted that the mandates will put additional pressure on the courthouse security, and Judge Urias requested that two security staff be on duty during in-person proceedings. Security will be required to refuse admittance if persons entering the court house refuse to comply with the directives. The protocols require the provision of a room to appear virtually in court proceedings, and a separate section for persons that have been vaccinated. McDonald also noted that she is investigating the feasibility of holding jury trials at the Convention Center to be able to accommodate these requirements.
The Court also approved an order prohibiting fireworks during the Fourth of July period, and continued the Burn Ban that has been in effect since 2011.
Commissioner Gilda Morales presented the recommendation that the County consider lowering the speed limit on I-10 noting that the last year has “been brutal” due to the number and severity of wrecks exacerbated by speed. She indicated that the majority of incidents occur between mile markers 151-179, stating that the victims have a better chance of surviving a wreck at lower speeds. This recommendation was not met with much enthusiasm by the Court.
Judge Urias expressed congratulations to Blue Origin on its upcoming historic flight scheduled for July 20, 2021. This event follows on the heels of the 2021 Van Horn Jubilee. Urias noted that this launch will be covered by many international news teams coming to Van Horn to witness the New Shepard team of astronauts travel past the boundaries of earth’s atmosphere and safely return to the landing area.
In other County business, the Court also:
Heard monthly report from Zack Schaefer, County Extension Agent.
Approved the 2021 Resolution for the Indigent Defense Grant Program.
Approved the FY 2021-2022 Administrative Cost Agreement for the Far West Texas Water Plan.
Approved the FY 2021-2022 Interlocal Agreement with Brewster, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio Counties for the support of the Far West Texas Public Defender’s Office grant.
Approved engagement letter with Knapp and Co. for auditing services.
Deferred action on upgrades to the Windstream phone system.
Approved monthly reports.
Heard reports on various County Projects.
Learned that the required cyber-security training is now a requirement for some grant funding.
Scheduled a special meeting for June 28, 2021.
Approved monthly expenses and payroll.