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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County
Harris County Commissioners Court
by Jim Guidry
Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Harris County Commissioners Court today voted unanimously to approve tax rates for Harris County, the Harris County Flood Control District, the Port of Houston Authority and the Harris County Hospital District totaling $0.62998 per $100 valuation.  Listen:  MP3  RealPlayer

“They stay the same overall,” said County Judge Ed Emmett. 

“Yes sir,” responded Finance Director Dick Raycraft.  “I will say what I said at the mid-year (budget review) that to maintain a sustainable financial outlook over time the court will need to pay attention to these rates as you go forward for adequate reserves, for adequate debt service requirements.”

The rates include $0.39117 for the county government, $0.02809 for the flood control district, $0.01856 for the port and $0.19216 for the hospital district.

“There is no hearing required because we are below the level that if you exceed, you would have to have a hearing,” Raycraft said.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve a phased hiring plan for 23 new medical positions, the transfer of a clerk position from the Tubeculosis Prevention Grant to the general fund, creation of a psychiatric technician job classification and title changes for three other job classifications for the Jail Medical Services Division in the Sheriff’s Office; and to approve 60 new temporary detention officers to full-time status, to promote 13 detention officers to sergeants and to promote a lieutenant to captain in the Sheriff’s Detention Bureau. Listen:  MP3 RealPlayer

“The item before you is a step in the right direction,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said to the commissioners court. “However, by the time we hire those folks, I will have lost 120 through attrition.  So, obviously with recent events these issues are critical.”

Judge  Emmett asked Garcia whether Monday’s surprise inspection by the Texas Jail Standards Commission that found overcrowding in courtroom holding cells was “random” or did someone call the “folks from Austin” suggesting that they come?

Garcia said that he did not direct anyone to make such a call and is not aware of any call being made to Austin about the issue.

Commissioner Steve Radack complained that the overcrowding condition had not already been addressed.

“The commissioner is right,” Garcia said.  “We know that this is an issue.  This is a mess I inherited; we’re working to deal with it.”

“At what point does two and a half years get past what you inherited?” Radack responded.

“It’s a system-wide issue, Commissioner,” Garcia said, stressing that the problems are being addressed.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve a “no change” option for annual adjustment in rates for law enforcement patrol contracts.   Raycraft had suggested options for a three percent increase for sergeants and lieutenants and three percent increases for all personnel in the program, but the commissioners court voted to stay with the contracts as they currently exist.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to appoint Debra Ibarra Mayfield as the Judge of Harris County Civil Court 1 to replace Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, who was appointed to the commissioners court last week.

The commissioners court voted 4-0-1, with Cagle abstaining, to approve orders authorizing litigation expenses in connection with cases in County Civil Courts 1, 2 and 4 and the 165th, 270th and 295th District Courts.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to reappoint Daisy Stiner to the Harris County Hospital District Board of Directors.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to appoint Lisa Gonzales Castaneda to the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Board of Directors to fill the unexpired term of Trini Mendenhall Sosa.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve an agreement with Harris County Municipal Utility District 257 in connection with construction of a hike and bike trail subject to review by the County Attorney’s Office.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve a travel request by the Sheriff’s Office to attend an FBI human intelligence intermediate training session in Fredericksburg, Virginia from October 16 to October 29.

The commissioners court voted to proclaim this week Fire Prevention Week; and to approve a resolution in support of the county’s Fall Blood Drive.

All other agenda items were approved unanimously.




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