Court fees, voting machines get commissioners’ attention

Despite not formally being scheduled on Monday’s agenda, Nancy Holt with Bluebonnet CASA addressed the McCulloch County commissioners and succeeded at getting their support to designate a special court fee to be used to benefit the area wide program. Bluebonnet CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is a four-county non-profit program that assigns qualified adults to act on behalf of children and minors caught up in the court system, most often due to parental separation or domestic abuse. The fee in question has been in place and is a $15 court fee added to anyone who files for divorce in McCulloch County. The fee has been collected since it was first enacted, but until recent clarification about how it could be designated, none of the funds were disbursed. A recent Attorney General ruling has given the court the latitude to distribute the funds to any area agency that provides services for abused or neglected children. According to Mrs. Holt, Bluebonnet CASA serves Mason, Menard, McCulloch and Kimble Counties, and since 2002, it has served 83 children in 48 cases. She also stated that there are 20 current cases in McCulloch County that involve 37 children. The court voiced its desire to approve the request to designate the funds to Bluebonnet CASA and stated that the formal decision will be ratified during the next commissioners meeting when the item can be formally voted upon after it is listed on the agenda. In regular business, the commissioners next voted to re-appoint Virginia Napper as a board member for the Central Texas MHMR board of trustees. The court then heard a presentation from Donald Barley with formal paperwork allowing the county to abandon several roads located within the county. The roads in question have all been abandoned for many years and in deed work being conducted, deeds without warranty were required and this action was a mere formality allowing the roads to formally be abandoned. The commissioners next appointed three replacement election judges and alternates due to resignations in three precincts. Appointed to fill one more year of a two-year term were judges and alternates Sue Steelhammer and Betty Whitten for Precinct 101, Wanda Burns and Kathleen Winters for Precinct 102, Sandra Bell and Jan Byler for Precinct 201. Also related to elections, the commissioners then had considerable discussion about the decision to acquire additional voting machines. A grant amount of $5,000 that can only be used to purchase new equipment had the court considering whether to purchase another e-scan machine. The action would also include training for the election judges provided by the company for the fee of $1,500 per day. County Judge Randy Young expressed concern with the decision to pay Hart Co. the aforementioned sum for training if there were qualified persons on staff with the county who could do the training for considerably less expense. According to County Clerk Tina Smith, the training was part of the package of purchasing the machines and options for training or sharing the cost of training with other counties had not been researched. Mrs. Smith also expressed a desire for the court to provide some direction for future acquisition of additional voting machines. The machines she requested would be scanners for paper ballots which would allow paper ballots at all voting locations in the county. The cost of acquiring those scanners is estimated at $40,105 and will be part of next year’s budget if passed. No decision was made about purchasing any additional machines. As the last item discussed in the regular meeting, the commissioners revisited a bridge fee as requested by Chapter 502 of the Transportation Code. The court determined that the letter received asking for an updated ruling was not asking for a new decision and the commissioners simply voted to retain the current $10 fee that is already in place. A brief update of the latest news from the Texas Historical Commission gave the court the status of the possible renovation project for the courthouse that has stalled due to state funding crises. In a letter to the county, the THC briefed the court of additional funds allocated as well as potential bond funds that will be placed before voters later this year. Young stated that it is possible the continuation of the renovation project could be included in the next year’s THC funding. The commissioners will reconvene for their next meeting on Monday, July 23 at 9 a.m. in the third floor meeting room at the courthouse.

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