Commissioners Court hears updates, approves contracts

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

August 4, 2021

The Hill County Commissioners Court heard updates about county projects and approved several agreements in a meeting held Tuesday, July 27.

In commissioners’ updates, Precinct 1 Commissioner Andy Montgomery reported that his crew is working on FEMA projects, patching potholes, cutting back trees and installing culverts. Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Crumpton said that another mile and a half of roads had been chip sealed in his precinct and other repair projects are being done. Precinct 3 Commissioner Scotty Hawkins said that roads are being repaired now that the silage trucks have moved out, and work is underway on the new county barn in his precinct. Precinct 4 Commissioner Martin Lake reported that his crews continue to work on replacing culverts and repairing roads.

County Judge Justin Lewis said that he and County Auditor Susan Swilling continue to work on budget numbers as the annual process of adopting a budget and tax rate approaches. Negotiations continue on health insurance costs due to the steep increase in this year’s estimate.

Lewis reported that the various construction projects in the county are moving along, with work continuing on the courthouse repairs, geotechnical surveying underway at the future site of the Extension Office at the fairgrounds and environmental review underway at the proposed warehouse property on Waco Street.

The judge also emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant as COVID-19 cases rise again, particularly with the delta variant now spreading quickly. “I encourage you, out of Christian love, do yourself a favor if you have not taken the vaccine yet,” the judge said. “If you have reservations about it that’s fine. It’s okay to be skeptical, but please go talk to somebody who knows what they’re talking about. That’s how you save lives.”

He added, “This is not some political football; this is a public health crisis.”

The judge also expressed his condolences after receiving word that Meridian’s mayor, Johnnie Hauerland, passed away from COVID-19 complications Saturday, July 24.

In regular business, the court authorized Lewis to negotiate and enter into a contract for the purchase of three lots near the Hill County Law Enforcement Center. Commissioner Lake explained that the lots had become available and are in a good location to serve the county in the event that any expansion is needed in the future.

Commissioners approved a $59,000 bid from Basic IDIQ, the company that is already working on courthouse repairs, to remodel the former tax office and create a courtroom for the Hill County Court at Law.

An agreement between Hill County and the Regional Public Defender Office Local Government Corporation was renewed for the coming biennium at a cost of $14,704. Lewis explained that the agreement basically acts as insurance to assist the county in the event that there is a capital murder trial in which a public defender is needed. He said that these trials can cost up to $2 million and be a “budget buster” for a smaller county.

The annual agreement with Central Texas Senior Ministry was approved. Under the agreement, the county provides $10,000 to help fund meals for seniors through Meals on Wheels. The senior ministry uses these funds to meet the required match of a Texas Department of Agriculture grant that puts more money into the program.

An agreement was approved with Tyler Technologies for its Jury Management Software, which District Clerk Marchel Eubank said provides better interaction with jurors. The online program eliminates much of the manual work that goes into coordinating jury trials, keeps potential juror lists updated and creates savings for the county in other areas, such as postage and personnel.

The court also observed and recorded the Community Supervision and Corrections Department budget for 2022 and 2023 and the Emergency Services District (ESD) 1 financial statements, which showed that the district received a clean audit with no material findings.

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