Commissioners approve insurance increase, ratify court fee designation

Meeting for the third time in less than a week, the McCulloch County Commissioners met in regular session Monday morning with a hefty agenda to deliberate. New rates for county employee health insurance coverage were approved and include $436 per month for an individual employee policy, $713 for an employee/child policy, $897 for an employee/spouse policy and $1,137 for an employee/family policy. Those rates increased from $421, $687, $865 and $1,096, respectively. With a small amount of increase from last year’s totals, the commissioners opted to approve the new rates and renew their contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield, rather than seek bids from other providers. Up next, the group approved Bluebonnet Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) as the recipient of previously-authorized court fees. According to McCulloch County Judge Randy Young, the state allows a Family Protection Fee (FPF) to be collected on all divorce cases filed within each county. In turn, that money’ a $15 fee’can be designated to state- approved organizations which work closely with the court system. Bluebonnet CASA qualifies as a recipient of the FPF money collected locally; therefore, the action taken Monday was to formally name that organization as the recipient. In other business, two county roads in Precinct 4 were officially given names. Precinct 4 Commissioner Brent Deeds informed the court that the two roads in question have been documented by the state and are represented, however, not named on the county map. The first road considered is located in the POW Camp and, according to Deeds, is a ‘pig tail’ to County Rd. 405. The second is the road leading into the Cox Cemetery. After meeting with Zane Brandenberger with the McCulloch County Appraisal District, to keep the roads in numeral formation in the POW Camp area, that road in question should be designated as County Rd. 413. The other would be given the designation as Cox Cemetery Road. Both recommendations were unanimously approved by the commissioners. Hoping to capitalize on interest rates, the commissioners voted to transfer $100,000 from the special road ad valorem line item and an additional $100,000 (divided from each commissioner’s budget) into the West Texas Rural Counties Insurance Association Pool. As a designated member dividend program, the county stands to earn at least seven percent interest on the allocated money which will be withdrawn (with interest) after a 12-month period. Participation also affords the county the opportunity to keep insurance premiums at a lower rate. “I picked it apart, and I can’t see a down side,” said Young. That being said, County Treasurer Donna Robinett suggested she could roll enough from each precinct’s budget to come up with the first $100,000 and could use $100,000 of funds set aside in the special road ad valorem line item. Her only caution was that enough money needed to remain in that particular line item for right-of-way purchases needed for an upcoming Texas Department of Transportation road reconditioning on Farm to Market Rd. 3353. With all in agreement, the commissioners voted to participate in the insurance pool. As the only item tabled Monday morning, the commissioners court opted not to appoint Bill Lopez with the Jesse D. Booth VFW of San Angelo as an assistant to local Veterans Service Officer Ed Hernandez. Lopez requested that the county hire him to assist Hernandez in aiding area veterans when applying for benefits. Lopez told the commissioners that, if they appointed him as the assistant, the county would be agreeing to pay the approximate $300 (one time) fee for him to attend a training session to better qualify him in assisting the local VSO and area veterans.The state, in turn, would reimburse the county for the expense of the training, according to Lopez. After researching the item further, Hernandez learned that the state is not, at this time, issuing any type of reimbursement; therefore the expense would lie solely on the county or individual attending the training. ‘We still don’t know all we need to know about this,’ said Commissioner Jerry Bratton, who recommended that the item be tabled until they could meet with Hernandez and the commander of the San Angelo VFW. ‘I feel we need to research this more before we commit to any decision.’ Following the joint meeting concerning the local Emergency Management Service last week which put the commissioners, city council and hospital board in a round table discussion for the first time on record, the commissioners made the first formal action to participate in an upcoming feasibility study. As requested in last week’s joint meeting, the commissioners agreed to allocate $3,333 to hire an EMS consultant to review the ins and outs of the local department and provide several directions in which to take the department in the very near future. As the item was opened for discussion Monday morning, Young first expressed his appreciation to the Brady Doctors Clinic for offering to pay the county’s portion of the fee. While tempted to accept such a generous offer, the commissioners voted to budget the $3,333 out of the next budget (to take effect in October) when the commissioners can designate funds out of a general account to pay the county’s portion. The item was unanimously approved by the commissioners court. While elevators are meant to go up and down, according to Judge Young, the county has been going ’round and round’ with its elevator repair company over the past couple of years. After finally freeing itself from the previous repair contract, the commissioners voted to approve United Elevator Service to begin providing maintenance and elevator service for the courthouse. Young noted that the previous company failed to complete the necessary maintenance logs and keep the county’s maintenance inspections up-to-date. The group agreed to pay United Elevator Service $245 per month to perform the necessary up-keep and repairs. Funds for the item will be withdrawn from the courthouse/ building maintenance line item in the county’s budget. In other business, the commissioners made the first lump sum payment to the architectural firm responsible for laying the initial ground work on the proposed jail project. With consultation and preliminary drawings complete, the action taken Monday morning was a necessary step in providing compensation for services rendered. With the lump sum of $20,000 due from the county, the commissioners agreed to pay the amount out of a reserve account. The action required the court to make a budget amendment to transfer those funds into the operating expense fund so that the architectural fee could be paid. A water easement approximately 2,500 feet from Farm to Market Rd. 2028 which crosses County Rd. 134, as requested by Jack Cauthen, was also approved by the commissioners. They also authorized F.M. Richards Memorial Library to allocate up to $400 of its current office supply budget to purchase a replacement computer.

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