Hill County commissioners meet in final 2021 session

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

January 5, 2022

The Hill County Commissioners Court considered agenda items related to county construction projects in a meeting held Tuesday, December 28.

Commissioners approved a contract with ICE Construction for the new Extension Office that will be constructed at the Hill County Fairgrounds. If the contract is approved by the company, it will include a completion date of November 1.

A contract was also approved with McKinstry for pre-construction services on the remodeling and repair project at the county’s Covington Street annex. Additional contracts are expected to be before the court in the future, as the county plans to employ a construction manager to ensure work is performed correctly on its building projects.

Commissioners reviewed a response to the county’s recent solicitation for qualifications regarding engineering services on the proposed expansion of the Hill County Exhibits Building with grant funds. MRB Group was the only company to respond to the request, and the court approved the proposal. The project will only be completed if the county receives the grant funding.

District Clerk Marchel Eubank presented information regarding the formation of a dispute resolution program in the county. Court fees recently amended by the state legislature include a $15 fee for the program. If a county does not have a dispute resolution program, the money goes back to the state.

County Judge Justin Lewis explained that mediation is an important tool to speed up the court system and assist parties that would like to resolve their issues outside of the courtroom.

The local fees are expected to amount to approximately $30,000 across all courts and will help offset costs of mediation in dispute resolutions.

“A lot of parties don’t want to fight it out,” Lewis said. “This program is not going to solve all of our problems, but it would allow us to keep that money in house.”

The court also approved lease-purchase agreements between the sheriff’s office and American National Leasing for vehicles previously approved by commissioners and updated the recent agreement with the Heart of Texas Council of Governments regarding the formation of a Regional Sexual Assault Response Team. The language was updated to include District Attorney Mark Pratt or his designee to the team.

Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hemrick reported that work is underway at the fairgrounds to install cameras that were previously approved by the court. Lewis said that the cameras will likely be used to livestream the fair later this month, allowing the public to watch remotely.

The judge added that the parking lot will be stripped at the fairgrounds prior to the fair to help maintain lanes of traffic and ensure emergency vehicles have access if needed.

Lewis said the new variant of COVID-19 has led to a shortage of monoclonal antibodies. He pointed out that while the Omicron variant may not be as severe as previous variants, it is a good time for the unvaccinated to consider getting vaccinated to reduce their risk of hospitalization.

COVID-19 testing at the Hill County Fairgrounds ended last week, and Lewis said that it will resume at the former Hillsboro Elementary School site on Jane Lane near Hill Regional Hospital Thursday, January 6.

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