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Less Money, More Expense for Houston County

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By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – While Houston County is in a fairly strong financial position, two reports given during the Commissioners Court meeting held on Tuesday, Nov. 12 indicated the county will face greater expenses going forward with less revenue coming into the county coffers.

In the departmental reports portion of the court session, County Auditor Melissa Jeter informed the court while the county would be receiving some money from the federal government as part of the Secure Rural Schools Act, it would be significantly less than the previous year.

“We received notice the mineral funds – last year we received a little over $300,000 – this year we received $53,701. Half of that will be distributed to the school districts at the next commissioners court but this year instead of $150,000, you will be getting approximately $26,000,” the auditor explained.

Houston County Judge Jim Lovell sought clarification if that included the timber funds but Jeter said that was just the mineral proceeds.

Another funding outlay incurred by the county involved the upcoming 2020 census.

“This redistricting has to be done at census time, every 10 years,” Jeter explained. “We normally hire a law firm that tackles this. It is a long process to go out and restructure our precincts to make sure they are even (population-wise),” she said.

Precinct Two Commissioner Willie Kitchen added there were several laws “… when it comes to equal representation. There are racial lines – it’s not just an equal number of people – there has to be consideration for race as well.”

The fee is $18,500 but as Jeter and Kitchen both stressed, it keeps the county’s independence in the redistricting matter and helps avoid any type of lawsuit. The measure was unanimously approved to hire the law firm of Allison, Bass and Magee to assist with the upcoming matters.   

One of the biggest funding drains on the county concerned indigent defense which was addressed in the Houston County Indigent Defense Expense Report  

The county auditor indicated Houston County spent approximately $298,000 in Fiscal Year 2019.

“The Task Force on Indigent Defense gave you $24,000 to offset $298,000,” she said. 

Jeter further explained civil case appointments are not reimbursed. No action was taken on the matter because it was for informational purposes only.

As the meeting continued, Jerod L. Morris, an engineer with Goodwin, Lasiter, Strong informed the court four bids had been received for the Texas Community Development Block Grant Road Improvement Project for CR 1860 and CR 4050.

The bids came from: Crockett Construction; Leland Bradlee Construction; Drewery & Wheaton; and George Bartee Construction.

“We are recommending the award to Crockett Construction for reconstruction on CR4050 and 1860, awarding the option of the oil sand over at Country Club Lake Road (CR 1860),” Morris said.

The total amount of the bid was $200,227.10 on a budget of $205,000.    

In other matters brought before the court:  

  • The commissioners approved the minutes from previous meetings.
  • Budget amendments were approved.   
  • The payment of bills and expenses incurred by the county was approved.
  • The Houston County Environmental and Community Service reports were received as information by the court.
  • The court approved salaries for new and transfer employees.
  • A donation from Frontier Camp – in the amount of $1,500 – was accepted by the court for improvements to County Road 2195. 
  • The resignation of Josh Bobbitt from the ESD #2 Board was accepted by the court.
  • The 2019 Texas Constitutional Amendment Election votes were canvassed and approved by the court.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.