|Liberty County Commissioner’s Court – Synopsis of 2015 thru 2017, EDITORIAL
LIBERTY, February 19, 2018 - County Judge Jay Knight highlights the accomplishments of the Liberty County Commissioners Court for the last three years.
Commissioner’s Court approved the upgrading of the phone and internet services in County Offices by switching providers and realizing a cost savings of over $300k per year to the County.
Commissioner’s Court investigated and made changes at the Liberty County Housing Authority. Appointed an all new membership to the board of directors, cleaned up prior questionable accounting practices. Sold off properties that were of questionable resource and revenue and paid off outstanding bonds.
Worked closely with FEMA to recover county funds allocated to repair roads and infrastructure due to flooding conditions during the year.
Commissioner’s Court formed the Liberty County Development Review Committee to meet with and review new residential developments and developers as they are introduced to the Court and prior to preliminary plats being filed. Members include: County Judge, All County Commissioners, County Attorney, Sheriff, County Engineering Administrator, County Emergency Management Coordinator, County Tax Assessor-Collector, Central Appraisal Chief Appraiser, TXDOT Resident Engineer, County Fire Marshall and Superintendents of the Independent School Districts within the County. This Committee is very important to the above mentioned members, and to all citizens of our County, so that they know exactly what type of new housing developments that will be coming to our County in the near future and may plan accordingly.
Commissioner’s Court members worked positively towards agreements between the Commissioners to aid one another within and outside of their respective precincts for a cost saving realization by sharing equipment and operators.
Commissioner’s Court was informed that the prior outgoing Administration had failed to procure a new Liberty County Jail operating contract and that the contract had been allowed to lapse, therefore resulting in higher costs to the County for the daily jail operation that was beyond the budgeted allowance. The new Commissioner’s Court Administration researched and produced a RFP to Re-negotiate the Liberty County Jail operating contract. CEC/GEO, the current contract holder, was awarded a new contract for 3 years with a 2 year option that has saved the county over $1.3 million dollars in operating costs over the last two years and has recently been approved by Commissioner’s Court to continue into its 4th and 5th years per our agreement with CEC/GEO.
Commissioner’s Court approved the purchase of new computer software for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department Dispatch Office and Criminal Records Reporting Program to further help them with efforts of faster dispatching of officers, case management and reporting.
Commissioner’s Court approved funding for final installation of the Emergency Power Generator at the LCSO/Jail for use during power outages and natural disasters. Note: This generator had been on-site at the Liberty County Jail since 2009 and had never been permanently installed nor used as needed during power outages. (Note: As of 2-12-18, this project is complete).
Commissioner’s Court stepped up the investigation and final settlements with Pipeline Companies operating in the county who were damaging county roads not listed in their road bonds or routing details for proper traffic routing.
Commissioner’s Court established a protocol for road use agreements with pipeline companies and Liberty County Engineering Department with enforcement to be handled by the Precinct 2 Constable’s office of Liberty County.
Commissioner’s Court approved the purchase of cameras and laptops for the Liberty County Constable Pct. 2 License and Weight Division to record roads prior to being used by Pipeline Companies so that damages can be recorded and detailed for payment back to the County on repairs.
Total Commissioner’s Court Workshops held in 2015….33.
Commissioner’s Court negotiated and completed Tax Abatement agreement with Sumiden Wire Company in Dayton. A 5 year total abatement term sets a new precedence through Commissioner’s Court from the old suit of 10 year terms.
Commissioner’s Court continues working with FEMA to recover funds to repair damaged Precinct roads due to flooding conditions throughout the County.
Commissioner’s Court approved the hiring of LJA Engineering to begin revising County Subdivision Rules and Regulations Manual. This task had not been touched since 2004 and had barely been updated since 1976.
Liberty County Purchasing produced a RFP to find and contract with a new Health Insurance provider for all County Employees, both active and retired, to cut county insurance costs. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas was selected through this process at a savings to the County of 14% below the previous provider with better overall coverage to the recipients.
Commissioner’s Court selected a new provider for County Employee’s Health Clinic with savings to the County of over $75k per year.
Commissioner’s Court approved and executed a Warranty Deed with the City of Cleveland for a future fire station to be located at the corner of FM 1010 and the Cleveland By-Pass.
County Judge and Precinct 4 Commissioner formed a core group of Officials, led by the County Judge, and representatives from UP and BNSF Railroads, Liberty County Rural Rail District #1, Gulf Inland Development, our State Senator, State Representative and Congressman along TXDOT to discuss and work towards economic development potentials and solutions in the rail yard area of Dayton and Southwest Liberty County that will result in bringing industry, better jobs and a solution to traffic problems experienced in the City of Dayton.
Commissioner’s Court adopted a new revised and updated version of the Employee’s Hand Book for all Liberty County Employees. The previous manual was over 10 years old.
Commissioner’s Court appointed and approved Bill Hergemueller as the new Liberty County Fire Marshall to fill the position of the late Jim Wilson.
Commissioner’s Court approved increasing the County Fire Department’s budget to $500k from $300k due to underfunding for several years and causing budgetary shortfalls.
Commissioner’s Court contracted with Houston El Norte POA for the POA to provide payment for an additional Law Enforcement Officer to the LCSO that will provide coverage solely in the Plum Grove new development area.
Commissioner’s Court approved the hiring of a new Grant Administrator to oversee all grants through the GLO and Public Management Company, etc. David Douglas, retired Dayton City Manager, has filled this position quite well and has worked with the County Auditor and Assistant County Auditor to correct poor accounting practices and recover monies lost by the County due to “double paying” vendors per invoices received from our County Grant Administration Company. Mr. Douglas also acts as the Liberty County Engineering Administrator in addition to the above mentioned duties.
Commissioner’s Court approved the county’s participation in Reinvestment Zone #1 in Cleveland area for the new housing and commercial development located at SH 321 and Cleveland By-Pass.
Commissioner’s Court approved the adoption of the county-wide “non-consent” towing fee schedule that pertains to Towing Companies located in Liberty County.
Commissioner’s Court approved a “Moratorium” on acceptance of Sub Division or Development applications until the new Development Manual is complete. This moratorium started in June of 2017 and has been extended to February of 2018 and with no objections by the potential developers who are working together with the Commissioner’s Court, County Judge and the County Engineering Department to complete the manual.
Commissioner’s Court approved and received a $50k grant from Southeast Texas Housing Corporation for Senior Citizens groups in Liberty County to receive additional funding to help provide for their respective groups.
Hurricane Harvey came to visit.
Commissioner’s Court approved the hiring of outside Counsel to pursue claims against Arkema Chemicals due to their gas release episode resulting from flooding due to Hurricane Harvey.
Commissioner’s Court approved a new contract with Liberty County EMS which sets the funding for their services at $330k per year effective 10-1-18.
Commissioner’s Court approved increased the County Fire Department’s Budgets to $609,753k to continue helping these entities’ funding and providing better service to all Liberty County residents.
The Liberty County Commissioner’s Court approved the new FY 2018 budget in September 2017 to include 6 new LCSO Deputies, along with $90k in additional capital outlay funding (total of $250k) to help the Sheriff’s Department in providing additional coverage to all of Liberty County.
Total Commissioner’s Court Workshops held in 2017…30. (This was down from previous years due to Hurricane Harvey).
In reviewing the previous Liberty County Budgets from the FYE’s ended 9-30-08 through 9-30-16, the following revenues and expenditures were noted along with the Net Changes in the General Fund Balance.
9-30-07 – Judge Fitzgerald
9-30-08 – Judge Fitzgerald
9-30-09 – Judge Fitzgerald
FYE 9-30-10 – Judge Fitzgerald
9-30-11 – Judge McNair
9-30-12 – Judge McNair
9-30-13 – Judge McNair
9-30-14 – Judge McNair
9-30-15 – Judge Knight
9-30-16 – Judge Knight
9-30-17 – Judge Knight
As of October 1, 2014 the outstanding debt obligations for Liberty County, including principal and interest was $18,326,891
As of October 1, 2017 the outstanding debt obligations for Liberty County, including principal and interest was $12,906,834. Therefore, that has been a reduction in our debt obligations of $5,420,057 since January of 2015.
Also, in February of 2015, Standard and Poors dropped our County Bond Rating from AA to AA-. In February of 2017, Standard and Poors reviewed and raised our County Bond Rating back to AA. This was due to a strong budgetary performance with balanced operating results in the general fund of 0.3 of expenditures and a break even result across all governmental funds.
Our Commissioner’s Court has consistently delivered a Liberty County Budget that has put your tax dollars back into our County fund balance each year since my taking office in 2015, while continuing to help all County Departments and Services with funding to better serve our residents. Since 2015, we have returned over $1.4 million of your tax dollars to the General Fund and over $1 million to the Road and Bridge Fund for Liberty County.