By Emily Banks Wooten
The Polk County Commissioners Court discussed developing a strategic plan and long-term goals for guidance in the county budget process during its regular meeting Tuesday.
“Strategic planning should be the foundation of the budget and it should be updated every five to seven years with strategic goals updated annually. Basically, since I’ve been in office, first we went into survival mode, right, and so we really now need to go back and get input, especially now that we have so many new elected officials, we really would like input from every department, from every elected official on some of the things they think we should modify or address or that should be some of our strategic goals,” County Judge Sydney Murphy said.
“Our county is growing so fast, and we’ve had so many changes. I would like to move forward with some form of workshops. I think it would behoove us to make this a formal process. I would like to involve the chamber of commerce, the new economic development director, representatives of the business community,” Murphy said.
The commissioners asked Murphy to bring a proposed plan for the series of workshops to the next court meeting and she agreed to.
The Court approved Amendment No. 1 to Part III, Subpart B, of the agreement with Langford Community Services to include the dollar amount for grant administration of the water infrastructure projects to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
“At the time that the county entered into an agreement with Langford Community Services for grant administration of the ARPA-funded water infrastructure we did not yet have a scope of work and project costs and the amount to be paid for their services was simply based on a percentage of the ARPA funds allocated to the project. Since the scope of the work has been determined with a total construction cost of $2,891,000, Langford has provided an amendment to the agreement to lock in the dollar amount for their services at $128,722,” Murphy said.
Requests for capital purchases to be paid from the fund balance and included on the fiscal year 2023 reimbursement resolution for the year-end issuance of legally authorized debt were approved. These included after-market equipment on a leased vehicle for environmental enforcement in the amount of $7,693 and after-market equipment on six leased vehicles for the sheriff’s office in the amount of $89,398.
“The vehicles that were requested for the fiscal year 2023 budget were included in everybody’s fleet management vehicle lease program which leases the vehicles to Polk County on either a 12 or 48-month term. Police units and certain other units with after market costs have a 48-month term. Half of the cost is to be paid up front with the other half built in. So the goal of the units is to be sold at a high enough price that the return to the county pays for the bulk of the cost of the lease and eventually it will rotate and we will really start seeing the impact of this program,” Murphy said.
“Other counties and municipalities have drastically reduced their vehicle and maintenance cost by taking advantage of this program. So the monthly lease price is built into the operations budget while the after market equipment is included on our reimbursement resolution,” Murphy said.
The Court approved a request from the Texas Department of Transportation for a special use project for the bridge replacement on Sunflower Road/County Road 1077 over Big Sandy Creek in Precinct 4.
“TxDOT is working with BGE Inc. to develop the plans, specifications and estimates for the bridge replacement. The project location occurs within the Big Thicket National Preserve Big Sandy Unit on a 60-foot-wide prescriptive easement that the county maintains,” Murphy said. “Because of the project’s location, our prescriptive easement, and because it requires a special use permit for activities on Big Thicket National Preserve lands, then we have included the sub-application for TxDOT and its agent to start the boring process for purposes of collecting soil data to design the bridge and the structure.”
The Court approved advertising for request for proposals for an independent auditing firm to complete the fiscal year 2023 and fiscal year 2024 audits.
“We’ve been very satisfied with our current independent auditing firm, Belt Harris Pechacek, but TAC (Texas Association of Counties) and the Government Financial Officers Association recommend that we review the options for outside auditing firms every five to seven years and the last time that the Court put out an RFP (request for proposal) for an independent audit was in 2004 and Belt Harris Pechacek has been completing our audit since then. We are currently spending over $70,000 for our annual independent audit which is over the amount of money that we can spend so we are preparing a request for proposal for an initial term of two years with an option to renew for two additional two-year terms which is basically what we have in place,” Murphy said.
Although the Court was slated to consider approval to begin procurement for the fiscal year 2023-24 Community Development Block Grant application cycle and appoint a rating committee, the Court ended up voting to delete the item from the agenda.
“We had put out requests for grant administrators and we did not receive any back and at this time since we have received CDBG monies for the last two years then we would lose a lot of points because we’ve already received grants,” Murphy explained.
In personnel matters, the Court reviewed and approved personnel action form requests submitted since the last meeting and reviewed two authorized emergency hirings – one at the jail and one in human resources.
The Court approved the fiscal year 2023 budget revisions and amendments as presented by the county auditor’s office.
During informational reports, County Clerk Schelana Hock provided an update regarding voter registration.
“We have updated some of the streets to reflect the correct districts. We have been working with the City of Onalaska, the City of Livingston, the Corrigan, Goodrich and Onalaska school districts to make sure that all their lines are straight, that the streets are in the city limits. We secured a drive with IT to start scanning all the applications and are going paperless and we’ve worked with Emergency Management to make sure we have all the streets correct,” Hock said.
The Court also heard the annual report from the Polk County AgriLife Extension Office which will be presented in a stand-alone story in the March 5 issue.
Items on the consent agenda included:
Approval of the minutes of the Feb. 14 regular meeting;
Approval of the schedules of bills;
Receipt of the county auditor’s monthly report, pursuant to local government code Sec. 114.025;
Approval of interlocal agreements with the City of Livingston and Goodrich ISD for the county’s provision of election equipment and services for the May 6 election, as recommended by the county clerk;
Approval to reschedule the regular commissioners court session set for May 23 to May 30;
Approval of renewal of agreement with Polk County Community Service Restitution program of the 258th and 411th Judicial District Community Supervision and Corrections Department;
Approval of Precinct 1 Constable Scott Hughes’ request to appoint Kent Martindale to reserve deputy constable to replace Keagan Newman;
Receipt of the county treasurer’s monthly reports for December and January; and
Acceptance of a donation of two polimaster personal radiation detectors from the City of Houston Public Safety and Homeland Security Office for the Office of Emergency Management.
Rev. Brian Wharton of the First United Methodist Church of Onalaska opened the meeting with prayer.