Editor: Shannon Cottongame
June 2, 2022
The Hill County Commissioners Court met in a regular session Tuesday, May 24, and opened discussions about a possible ordinance to regulate non-consent towing in the county.
Precinct 4 Constable Kevin Cordell presented information about the proposal, which his office has been working on with input from other counties.
The ordinance would establish rules and regulations for towing and guidelines for administration of the county’s rotation list of wreckers that are eligible to be called to unincorporated areas of the county by law enforcement.
If the ordinance is approved, no towing company will be placed on the county’s wrecker rotation list unless it receives a permit under the county’s rules.
The rules and regulations would not apply to other business the companies do with customers, but they would have to be in compliance to be eligible to respond to crashes and other scenes where they are requested by law enforcement.
Cordell and County Judge Justin Lewis both said that the county has received complaints from individuals related to high fees charged by towing companies for some non-consent tows. The ordinance includes a fee schedule that creates maximum allowable fees for towing related to different types of vehicles and scenarios.
Cordell said that the fee schedule takes into consideration that the cost of doing business in the wrecker industry is expensive, and said that some of the fees may have to be reassessed due to rising expenses like fuel costs.
Representatives of towing companies in attendance expressed concerns about the impacts to their businesses, pointing out that they are getting fewer calls now and facing rising costs.
The constable said that he is not proposing that the ordinance go into effect until January of next year to give all towing companies the opportunity to review the requirements and ensure that they are in compliance.
Judge Lewis said that the ordinance is on the county’s website for the public’s review, and placing it on the agenda was the start of a conversation that will include all parties. Companies were encouraged to contact Cordell and Lewis with input, and the ordinance will be discussed again before commissioners vote on the matter.
County Auditor Susan Swilling presented the auditor’s annual report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021. The lengthy report provides a complete review of projected and actual revenues and expenses for the year, breakdowns by department and individual funds and other relevant financial data.
When preparing the budget, the county projected a year-end balance of $6,084,965, but the actual number was $8,805,258. Swilling said that it was an unusual year due to the pandemic, with training sessions and other events canceled. She said that some funds did better than others, but all accounts ended the year on a positive note in the black.
The biggest source of grant funding in 2021 was the $3.5 million received in American Rescue Plan funds.
Sales tax revenue continues to exceed expectations in the county. Last year’s collections totaled $3,134,455, which was $1,034,455 higher than the original budget projection.
Sales tax numbers continue to be strong this year. Swilling said that the when she prepared the annual report last year, the collections to date amounted to $1.9 million. To date this year, they have reached $2.3 million.
The auditor’s full annual report can be viewed on the county website at co.hill.tx.us under the “financial transparency” tab.
The court also reviewed the investment report prepared by Treasurer Rhonda Burkhart and Swilling for the quarter ending December 31, 2021. The report showed cash management earnings of $3,610.95, certificates of deposit interest earnings of $64,668.82 and a total investment funds balance of $17,535,303.31.
Commissioners also approved bids for asbestos remediation as remodeling work is planned at the Covington Street annex. Environmental Support Services, Inc., which is certified by the Texas Department of State Health Services, is overseeing the process at a cost of $5,325, and TriCore Services, Inc. will perform the work at a cost of $10,700.
A final plat was approved for the Mesquite Ridge subdivision, which will be located off of HCR 2128.
Commissioners heard a presentation from Ben Rosenberg of U.S. Capital Advisors, who discussed the county’s options for obtaining additional funding for the multiple capital projects currently underway with grant funds.
The county has been able to expedite multiple projects due to grant money received, including American Rescue Plan funds. Some of the ongoing and recent projects include radio system upgrades, the Covington Street annex remodeling project, new Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office building, pens for estray livestock at the sheriff’s office and the new Precinct 1 annex in Huron.
“Because of grant money we were able to obtain, we’re doing 15 years of work in about four,” Lewis said. The county is putting a little over $9 million into the projects, but an estimated $1.75 million to $2 million will be needed to complete them.
The county is looking at securing that funding through tax notes before interest rates increase further. In the event that the money is not needed, it will be paid back, but Lewis said it appears that it will be needed.
Rosenberg said that 50 to 75 banks will be contacted regarding lending the county money with bids due on June 14. The commissioners will consider the proposals at that time prior to accepting a bid.
The court also heard a presentation from the Hill County 4-H Shooting Sports Team, which had great success at the recent district competition. There were 27 Hill County students competing, which was the largest group in attendance and an increase from the eight who competed last year. The club continues to grow, with 59 youth involved in shooting sports.
In other action at the meeting, the court approved two memorandums of understanding related to officials’ office space. An agreement was approved with Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Charles Jones to increase the rent paid to him for the use of his building at 103 East Adams Street in Itasca as a county office. The rent will increase from $300 per month to $500 per month.
Another memorandum of understanding was approved with the City of Whitney allowing Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Trey Jetton to continue renting space at Whitney City Hall for his county office.
The court’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, June 14, at the Hill County Courthouse.