Sutton County Commissioners took a special meeting Monday, December 23, 2019 to discuss matters relating to round the clock patrol, support for the Sonora Research Station and to wrap up last minute business before the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Amid growing concerns over crime prevention and general public safety in the community, Sutton County Sheriff’s deputies began patrol in Sonora this past month to help the city police department.

Sheriff Oscar Chavez told commissioners that he has already assigned deputies to patrol in the city, providing 24-hour coverage.

Police Chief Jerzy Bider and City Manager Art Fuentes were also present for the meeting.

On behalf of the City, Administrator Art Fuentes thanked commissioners for showing interest and offering their support for the city. Fuentes said he and Police Chief Bider are aware of the concerns and are looking for ways to improve the city’s law enforcement efforts.

“It always good for us to work together,” Fuentes said. “We recognize the need and importance to have night coverage. Unfortunately, as you guys know the financial situation that we are in at the city might not allow us to do that.”

Commissioner Carl Teaff noted that the city is in the county and law enforcement coverage is a concern for all in the community. Teaff said he thinks the city and county should work together to ensure 24 hour coverage is provided.

For now, the Sheriff’s Office will provide coverage within the city at the expense of the county while officials continue to work on a long-term resolution.
Moving on to another matter of concern to the county, commissioners discussed the need to back a resolution in support of ongoing research at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station. Specifically, talked about the need for ongoing research benefitting Sutton County and the employment of Principal Research Investigator Doug Tolleson, Ph.D.

To the benefit of Sutton County ranchers, Commissioner Bob Brockman said the Sonora experiment station has been conducting research for more than 100 years that has been instrumental in area such as grazing systems, livestock vaccines and Screw Worm eradication
“They just need a little bit of help in keeping this research station viable,” Brockman said.

Brockman said at one time there was talk of closing the station and utilizing it as a satellite office that did not house a research scientist. Presently Doug Tolleson, is employed as the lead Research Scientist. Tolleson replaced Butch Taylor following his retirement in 2016 after 32 years as superintendent of AgriLife Research station at Sonora.

“We are trying to keep his work viable and keep him here at this station,” Brockman said.

In the event the Sonora Research Station were to close, future research would be done in San Angelo and College Station.

Reading the resolution aloud, Judge Smtih recited, “Now therefore be it resolved that the Sutton County Commissioners court urges that the Sonora Research Station be supported by the Texas A&M system and be associated with the Range Wildlife and Fisheries Management Department and further resolve that the Sutton County Commissioners court endorses the continued research of the Sonora Research Station solve real life range management issues.”

In other business, commissioners approved a request from the Texas Democratic Party for a joint primary the same as in past years.

Additionally and as part of the request, Commissioners agreed to pay poll workers and seek reimbursement from the state. This action allows poll workers to receive their compensation in a timelier manner.

As well, they approved a Primary joint resolution as presented. The resolution allows for the joint administration of both Republican and Democratic parties by the election administrator in the upcoming March Primary Election.

County Clerk Rachel Duran serves as the party administrator.

Duran also commented that she would not recommend changing the current poll location at the Fire Hall as discussed in the previous meeting. Duran said there was not a valid reason to make a change in poll locations.

Following the review of contracts presented for their consideration, commissioners voted unanimously to engage in contracts for a Xerox machine for the Sheriff’s Office, phone service for county provided by Hill Country Telephone Cooperative (HCTC) and Vista court management software for the office of the Justice of the Peace.

Noting an amendment, commissioners approved the Accounts Payable reflecting a line item transfer to afford computer upgrades for the Clerk’s office.
Additionally, they ok’d the Treasurer’s and CSCS reports as presented.

No report was available for the Tax Assessor Collector. That report will be presented at the next meeting.

No action was taken on a storage lease agreement for the Tarantella Organization. The matter was tabled until January.

Following regular business, Judge Steve Smith reported on a list of items he deemed important as county leaders head into the new year.
His report included updates on county building repairs and renovations, an upcoming conference titled Preserving Historical Texas, which Smith said would be informative in helping with the continued upkeep on the Sutton County courthouse and the inclusion of Sutton County on a billboard that reflects cooperation with AADAC on Opioids as part of the rural counties opioid response program.

Additionally, the county has made an application for the closure of use of the softball field lot for the purpose of storing storm debris, he said. Smith cited a total of 738 tons of storm debris that was removed from the designated area in the months following the September 2018 flood in Sonora.
Commissioners were made aware of mandated Cyber security training for employees with access to computers to take place after the new year.

Lastly, Smith explained that he had received a letter from Representative Middleton requesting information on contracts with lobbyist to lobby the state legislature. There have not been any such agreements going back as far as the past 10 years, according to Smith as he noted in his response to the request.

There were no visitor comments.

Judge Steve Smith presided over the meeting. Commissioners Carl Teaff, Mike Villanueva, Fred Perez and Bob Brockman were present.
The next meeting of the Sutton County Commissioners is set for Monday, January 13, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. at the County Annex Building.