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Harris County
Harris County Commissioners Court
by Garrett Bryce w/photos courtesy Harris County
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Harris County Commissioners Court today voted unanimously to approve a request by the Community Services Department to receive and administer Community Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds from the Texas General Land Office, in the amount of $46 million, and authorize the execution of a pre-agreement costs letter to the GLO in connection with CDBG-DR Harvey funding.

Commissioner Rodney Ellis asked questions regarding the item, noting he understood that a $8 million portion of $46 million would be used as a local match, reducing the amount available for home buy-outs and repairs related to Hurricane Harvey.

Daphne Lemelle, Housing & Community Development Director, confirmed that a portion of the funds would be used by the state for local match requirements to the federal government.

“We did not expect this, we thought the $46 million would be dedicated to Harris County for buyouts,” Lemelle said. Listen (5:05)

Ellis questioned the ability of the state to utilize some of the funds for local match.

“I'm not criticizing (Land Commissioner George P.) Bush, because he doesn't control that $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, but just it seems odd you would go, I guess that's about 75 houses, 80 hoses? That you are going to take money from one federal pot to draw down money another federal pot.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett thanked Ellis for bringing the issue to the table.

“This is important,” Emmett said. “The state is sitting on $10 or $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, and they can't take $8 million out of that to provide the match? Instead they're going to take it out of home buyouts.”

Emmett asked to draft a letter with “as strong a language as possible” regarding the matter.

“That match ought to really be coming out of the Rainy Day Fund,” he said. “It shouldn't be coming out of the money that's supposed to be serving to do the buyouts. That's just ridiculous.”

Emmett had participated in a broadcast town hall meeting on Monday with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to discuss actions and plans regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The meeting was broadcast on KPRC 2 Houston. Click Here for Video

The commissioners court voted unanimously to adopt a resolution proclaiming January 30 as “Houston Astros Day” in recognition of the Astros world championship victory.

“The one thing I learned during the aftermath of Harvey, no matter how bad things were going on, all you had to say was Houston Astros and the whole place would start cheering,” Emmett said. “As bad as things were, the Astros just lifted everybody's spirit, just unbelievably.” Listen (5:04)

The commissioners court took no action regarding a request by the District Courts Department to authorize reclassification of certain positions. The item was referred to Budget Management.

The commissioners court voted 4-1, with Ellis opposed, to approve litigation expenses in the matter of ODonnell, et al vs. Harris County. The matter was under an item related to legal action and litigation expenses in various county and district courts, environmental cases in Precinct 4, a case in the 53rd District Court of Travis County and cases in U.S. District Court. Ellis voted in favor of all other cases under the item.

The commissioners court took no action regarding a resolution in recognition of Dr. Nivien Saleh commemorating her citizenship in the United States. Ellis pulled the item, stating he would give the recognition privately.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to reappoint Linn Smyth and Lindall Murff to the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to reappoint Noel Paige Eckberg to the Old Town Spring Improvement District Board of Directors, Position 2.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve hiring Richard Kuniansky as outside counsel, with amount not to exceed $40,000, to represent a deputy in the matter of Bartee vs. Harris County, et al, to represent one Harris County Sheriff's Deputy in the case.

The commissioners court voted unanimously to approve a revision to a subdivision plat for St. Charles Place, Section 2, partial replat in Precinct 2. A public hearing was held prior to consideration of the item. No members of the public requested to address the court during the hearing.

All other items were approved by unanimous vote, with minor exceptions. All members were present. Agenda

Prior to the items on the agenda, the commissioners court heard a presentation from County Budget Officer William Jackson regarding the FY2019 Budget and policy issues for the county, the Flood Control District, Port of Houston, and the Hospital District.
Listen (54:43)

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