Sutton County Commissioners spent time discussing whether or not to open county facilities to the general public during a meeting Monday, May 11.

In early April, County Judge Steve Smith ordered all county buildings be locked limiting access to employees only in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This order included suspending social gatherings and events at the county pavilion and civic center.

At the request of County Clerk Rachel Duran, who opposed the order to lock buildings, Smith asked the commissioners for their thoughts on allowing the public to freely enter and move about county buildings. Separately, he asked for their thoughts on allowing parties and social gatherings to take place inside the civic center as well as the pavilion.

Commissioner Mike Villanueva asked if any complaints had been heard regarding buildings being locked. Smith said no. Disagreeing with him, Duran said she has heard multiple complaints. Additionally, she insisted that the public cannot be denied access into the courthouse during regular business hours, according to Texas law. Commissioners Bob Brockman and Carl Teaff spoke in favor of immediately opening all county buildings, but allowing individual elected officials to limit public access if they so choose.

Despite the attempt to persuade, Villanueva recommended waiting one or two more weeks. Finally, the commissioners approved a motion by Commissioner Brockman and seconded by Commissioner Teaff to unlock county buildings allowing access as usual.

However, commissioners collectively voiced concerns against allowing rental of the civic center at this time for the purpose of holding parties and social gatherings.

Again, Duran insisted they must allow parties to take place or face a “riot” by the public.

Commissioner Brockman, Teaff and Perez voted in favor of opening the pavilion immediately. The approved motion included waiting until June 12 to allow parties inside the civic center and the development of guidelines for use. Commissioners Villanueva voted against the motion.

Aside from this action, meetings are allowed to take place inside the civic center using safe distancing guidelines.

In other business, commissioners approved the accounts payable and reviewed individual department reports as presented.

Additionally, they voted not to allow the sale of fireworks for Memorial Day. However, the county parking lot beside the rodeo arena will be open to the public to ignite fireworks on May 25.

Judge Jody Harris noted that cases were down due to COVID-19. He reported 217 new cases and 563 cases closed during the month of April.

Additionally, he reported a total of $152,943.16 collected in JP court in April. Of that amount, the county retained $86,937.42, minus fees. Judge Harris also noted 4 magistrated, 1 arrest warrant issued, 2 requests for an attorney granted and 2 inquests due to natural causes during the month of April.

Hearings will continue to be held via Zoom until June 1.

Likewise, Sheriff Oscar Chavez noted a daily inmate average of 7 at a cost of $1.96 per meal. Additionally, the SO issued 29 citations and warning during April and arrested 1 person. Deputies worked 10 crashes, but had no transports during April. Deputies also continue volunteer service at the Food Pantry with stocking and distribution as well as drive-by birthday parades.

Robert Hughes updated commissioners on road and bridge activities. Hughes said county crews have been mowing and spraying as usual for this time of the year. In addition, crews have begun maintenance work on conservation dams. Looking ahead at paving projects, Hughes requested asphalt and gravel for such projects.

With two separate motions, commissioners approved to advertise for bids on 75,000 gallons of AC5 asphalt and 1,000 tons of gravel.

Next, Deborah Brown also noted a decrease in activity in April for the library. She noted 180 adult patrons and 7 children visited the library in person. Additionally, the library received a higher number of phone calls requesting information and higher incidence of electronic books checked out, 1,112, during April. The library provided 9 online virtual story times as well.

County Clerk Duran reported fees collected in April in the amount of $4,232 for district court, $18,731, county court and $3,157 collected for OPRs.
Also of note, the clerk’s office staff took time from their regular work duties and painted the office during April.

County Attorney David Wallace noted the postponement of jury trials scheduled for April and May to be held at a future date.

County Judge Smith reported on his efforts to seek a grant in the amount of $95,000 to fund road work. This particular grant was last sought in 2013-14, but the county did not move forward with it due to not needing the money at that time.

Additionally, Judge Smith updated the court on new signage to be posted at Allison Park. He also said interviews for the positions of Road and Bridge Supervisor will be held the first week of June.

Lastly, commissioners reviewed the Sutton County Appraisal District 2020 estimated values as provided. Teaff remarked on the increase from previous values. No action was taken.

With no other business, the meeting was adjourned.

Judge Smith presided over the meeting. Commissioners Carl Teaff, Fred Perez, Mike Villanueva and Bob Brockman were present. Commissioner elect Lee Bloodworth was also present via audio/video conference.

The next regular meeting of the Sutton County Commissioners is set for Tuesday, May 26, at 9:00 a.m.