Harris County Commissioners Court today met in executive session to discuss Commissioner Jack Morman’s proposal to appoint Colonel John D. Kennedy, the former city manager of Nassau Bay, to the position on the Port of Houston Authority Commission that is currently held by Jim Fonteno. However, after the closed door meeting, Commissioner Steve Radack asked that the item be deferred until another meeting. Listen
“I’m going to request to hold it to give court members who haven’t had the opportunity to meet Colonel Kennedy, to give them time to do it,” Radack said.
Commissioner Fonteno and his wife were in the audience during the meeting.
The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve new annual agreements with Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, Baytown-West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation, Economic Alliance-Houston Port Region, Katy Economic Development Council, Inc, and Lone Star College for economic development services in the total amount of $316,000.
However the commissioners court deferred action on a $140,000 annual agreement with the Greater Houston Partnership. Listen
Morman asked Community Services Director David Turkel about the GHP’s position on general mobility payments by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County for road improvements in the various communities.
“Have they expressed an opinion, not expressed an opinion, not going to express an opinion, about METRO’s general mobility payments?" Morman asked.
“I don’t believe that they have taken a stand or expressed an opinion,” Turkel said. “There have been personal opinions by different members of their staff, but as far as official, no.”
The commissioners court voted unanimously to retain the law firm of Connelly-Baker-Wotring, LLP to serve as special counsel in connection with environmental litigation matters regarding a longtime dispute over the dumping of toxic materials. However, attorney Matthew Caligur of Baker Hostetler, representing International Paper Company, as well as attorney Patrick Oxford of Bracewell & Giuliani, appeared before the commissioners asking the commissioners court to refrain from legal action at this time, contending that remediation actions are sufficient. Listen
First Assistant County Attorney Terrance O’Rourke objected to Oxford’s appearance because he also represents the county on other matters.
“We all know each other and we respect each other, but there appears to be a conflict,” O’Rourke said.
Commissioner Morman said the litigation should move forward.
“I just can’t help but believe that if this poison had been dumped in Buffalo Bayou we would have sued everybody and their mothers long ago and this would have been cleaned up long ago,” Morman said. “But it’s on the east side and so we are going through all of this.”
The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve ad valorem tax exemptions for seniors and disabled citizens, which led to an exchange between Budget Officer Bill Jackson and Commissioner Radack, who was concerned about the difference between the county and the City of Houston regarding exemptions. Listen
“It is safe to say that if you fall into the category of having a homestead, the individual being disabled or 65 or older, that means that if a home is worth $200,000 they don’t pay a penny in county taxes?” Radack asked.
“That’s correct,” Jackson answered.
“And that’s the most generous senior citizen exemption in the state of Texas?” Radack asked.
“That’s what I’m aware of, yes,” Jackson responded. “It has been for a long time.”
Radack then complained about the city’s exemption, which is not as generous.
“(They will) sell you water and sewage, they have an ad valorem tax that is greater than Harris County’s, they don’t give as much exemption to the seniors, they’ve got a sales tax, they have five members on the METRO board and they control METRO, charge huge fees, and now they don’t have the red light cameras; they also have a rain tax,” Radack said. “I wonder how they make it.”
The commissioners court voted 4-0-1, with Morman abstaining, to approve an order authorizing the county to enter into an “amended and restated fee agreement or additional fee agreement with Malouf & Nockels, LLP as special counsel for Harris County to assist in prosecuting suit(s) against various defendants arising out of the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., matter”.
Several items were withdrawn from the agenda and were not considered for action by the commissioners court.
- A $150,000 contract with Glenda L. Callaway to provide public information consulting services in support of the Flood Control District’s countywide capital improvement program;
- A $12,370,596 contract with Williams Equipment Services, LLP for the Brays Bayou federal flood control project, Eldridge detention basin;
- A $211,650 amendment to a contract with Cobb, Fendley & Associates, Inc. in connection with construction of Morton Ranch Road from east of Katy Fort Bend County Road/Katy Hockley Cutoff Road to east of Porter Road;
- The reimbursement of an amount not to exceed $4,730,000 to the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation for Hurricane Ike invoices and other items; and
- A request that the commissioners court consider current drought conditions and take necessary action regarding the sale and use of restricted fireworks during the period of June 21 to July 4.
All other agenda items were approved with unanimous votes. Agenda
There were three special presentations. Listen
The commissioners court proclaimed June 29 as Leslie Deen Day on the occasion of her retirement from the Information Technology Center; recognition of June 23 as Olympic Day, with a resolution on behalf of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority serving as host to the 2012 USA Rugby vs. Italy international match; and proclaiming the Month of June as Pet Adoption Month. Commissioner Jack Cagle introduced Sir Percival, nicknamed Percy, his recently adopted pet.
Several people addressed the commissioners court following the meeting, including Ed Bluestein, who asked the commissioners court to appeal to the Port of Houston Authority Commission to not use dredge material from the deepening and widening of the Bayport Ship Channel as a marsh island that would hamper recreational boating. Listen