Editor: Shannon Cottongame
November 3, 2021
Consolidation of county’s voting precincts up next…
The Hill County Commissioners Court approved a precinct map last week that will determine the areas served by commissioners, justices of the peace and constables for the next 10 years.
Redistricting consultant Mike Morrison reported last month that little change was needed to balance the precincts based on the 2020 Census results placing Hill County’s population at 35,874, an increase of only 785 people since the 2010 Census.
While it is understood that this number is an undercount, it is the only data that the county has to work with to draw the new lines.
After receiving no comments during the public hearing, the court voted to approve the new map, which moves about five blocks in the City of Hillsboro from Precinct 3 to Precinct 2.
The only other slight change involved moving a single home from Precinct 1 to Precinct 2 near Aquilla Creek. This adjustment does not involve a county road or any other residence and will accommodate a justice of the peace who is moving to a new home.
The next item on the court’s agenda related to redistricting is the consolidation of some of the county’s 22 voting precincts.
County Judge Justin Lewis said that 22 is an inordinately large number of precincts for Hill County, and the Hill County Elections Commission held a public meeting and proposed reducing that to 14 precincts.
That proposal has been submitted to Morrison for review with the goal of approving a plan by the end of November or beginning of December.
Lewis said that there were several reasons for the proposal, including the fact that some precincts have a huge turnout while others see very few voters. The judge said that it is also getting more and more difficult to find election judges and clerks for that many precincts, and some areas no longer have a safe, accessible polling place.
Along with the consolidation of precincts, the commission also proposed expanding early voting options for Hill County residents. This would open up two early voting sites in addition to the usual Hillsboro early voting site. One would be located in the McCown Valley area near Whitney to better accommodate the west side of the county, and the other would be in Hubbard
“We looked at who comes to early vote, and it’s really clustered around Hillsboro,” Lewis said. The hope is that additional early voting sites would allow more voters in the county to cast early ballots.
Commissioners also accepted the resignation of Hill County Emergency Services District (ESD) 1 board member Clarence Janek, who is leaving the board due to ongoing health issues. Lewis expressed appreciation to Janek for his years of service, and the court voted to appoint Greg Brown to his spot on the ESD 1 board.
The court considered several agenda items related to construction projects in the county.
A $1.9 million bid from ICE Construction, which was the lowest of two bidders, was approved for construction of a new building for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at the fairgrounds. The project includes a 6,300 square-foot metal building with paved parking.
The project will be completed with federal funds and will not result in debt for the county.
Commissioners also voted to begin soliciting bids for planned renovations at the Covington Street annex. Bids will be opened on January 6 with action possibly before the court on January 11.
Following an executive session, the court also voted to negotiate the purchase of property from Hillsboro Independent School District.
The court cast its votes for the Hill County Appraisal District Board of Directors. All taxing entities in the county are allocated a certain number of votes based on their 2020 tax levies. These can be cast for one nominee or divided between any number of nominees.
Hill County divided its 1,249 votes equally between the six nominees: Don Ford, Eugene Fulton, Scot Kelley, Edith Omberg, John Sawyer and Roberta Skelton.
Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hemrick reported that COVID-19 testing is still being offered at the Hill County Fairgrounds, but it will likely only be offered on weekdays for the time being since the infection numbers are down locally.