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Budget, electronic voting system discussed
By Dakota McDonald
Garza County Commissioners continued discussion of the proposed budget and tax rate but took no action during their Aug. 19 meeting.
Commissioner Jeff Williams said he has cut as much from the budget as he can, adding he believes the only way to keep from cutting jobs is to raise the tax rate.
Commissioner Ted Brannon argued that citizens want the lowest possible tax rate. However, Williams rebutted, saying commissioners have taken from their own budget to give to the general fund. Williams furthered his point by saying if they cut anymore, they will not have funds for necessary repairs and breakdowns of equipment within their precincts.
County Judge Lee Norman reminded the commissioners they are to serve the county as a whole.
Brannon recommended raising the proposed tax rate to .7727 cents per $100 property valuation, an 8-percent increase over the current rate. No action was taken.
In other business, with election season right around the corner, the commissioners discussed the implementation of an updated voting system, for which Garza County has applied for funds to obtain the system.
Election Systems and Software representative Matt Kunz conducted a demonstration of its poll book, voting and tabulation systems.
The ExpressVote system includes a ballot machine that displays a digital ballot similar to that of the physical ballot. The ExpressVote handles the entire marking process, eliminating unclear marks and the need for interpretation of the voter’s mark. The system will also include a digital check-in system that will allow individuals to swipe their driver’s license to pull up their information and a ballot box that counts totals as ballots are placed inside, Kunz said.
The equipment, which is military grade, does not need internet service to operate. The information is saved on the system and will be transferred to the clerk’s office by thumb drive, Kunz said.
No action was taken to implement ExpressVote.
In addition, the commissioners approved and ordered the Nov. 3 General Election and the list of poll workers for early and regular voting dates.
A special election also was approved to be held on Nov. 3 for the purpose of the legal sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders only. This has been put on the ballot by Rex Cash who plans to open a restaurant on the empty lot where the old Algerita Hotel once stood. Cash’s plans include a sit-down restaurant where customers can enjoy alcoholic beverages west of the tracks. He believes permitting the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants will bring commerce downtown and help Post compete with surrounding cities. Currently, alcohol sales are only permitted east of the railroad tracks.
Norman scheduled an Aug. 20 meeting to appoint members to the Early Voting Ballot Board from the nominations provided by the party chairs and to consider any other matters concerning the Nov. 3 General Election. The board consists of the County Judge, clerk, sheriff, Voter Registrar and county chair of each political party.
District and County Clerk Jim Plummer suggested creating a position of Joint Election Administrator as he is in his last term, which expires December 2022.
Duties of this position include handling elections for all entities in the county including those of the city, school, hospital and county, Plummer said. The commissioners did not act on Plummer’s suggestion, saying they needed more information before they could make a decision.
Commissioners approved a County Specific Incentive through Healthy County. In the CSI program, employees and spouses will be rewarded for healthy behaviors such as completing an annual exam, tobacco affidavit or participating in a physical activity program in exchange for avoiding premium contribution, a lower monthly premium, or earn additional days of paid time off, according to signed contract between Healthy Communities and Garza County.
Additionally, county commissioners approved a blood draw agreement between the county and phlebotomist Mandy McClain. McClain will provide blood draw service to any and all law enforcement agencies stationed in Garza County, including Garza County Sheriff’s Deputies, Garza County Constables, Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers and Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens. McClain will receive a monthly payment of $250 plus $50 per blood draw she performs. The contract will remain in force until Sept. 30.
The court approved a contract between Sheriff Terry Morgan and the Defense Logistics Agency. Morgan explained that the contract is renewed yearly to obtain surplus military equipment at no cost to the county.
The court also thanked Kelly and Joe Mason, owners of Mason Brothers Construction, who recently replaced the flagpole in front of the Garza County Courthouse. The flagpole had been previously damaged during a storm.
The next regular meeting is set for 9 a.m., Monday, Aug. 24.