County Commissioner Pete Jauer said he had heard many comments and questions about the current state of the county’s road and bridge department.
“I feel like we do need an engineer and an administrator to handle the department,” Jauer said, noting that many complaints had been voiced about needed repairs and maintenance to county roads.
Jauer said opportunities had been missed for needed repairs to be paid by energy companies working in the county and causing excessive wear and tear. Jauer mentioned that a bulldozer the county rented for bridge repairs had not been used to repair the bridge.
“We are using it for a lot of things, Pete,” Road and Bridge Administrator Jeffrey Wiatrek said.
Jauer made a motion to advertise for the position and accept applications as required by statute.
Commissioner Tracey Schendel seconded Jauer’s motion.
Commissioner James Rosales questioned whether the court had acted properly in regard to action taken in regard to the position at an earlier meeting.
County Judge Barbara Shaw explained that Wiatrek remained road and bridge administrator after the action taken by the court.
“He was never removed as administrator last time,” Shaw said. “If he is replaced, we can’t say that he is going to stay as superintendent. If a new road and bridge administrator comes in, they can do whatever they want... Nothing was technically done last time.”
“Can we just do that?” Rosales asked. “just advertise for another one while he is still our road and bridge administrator?”
“If we choose to seek a new road and bridge administrator, we can advertise,” Shaw said.
Shaw said Commissioner Jauer consulted with Ross Fischer, an Austin attorney with the law firm Denton, Navarro, Rocha and Bernal, who does legal work for the county. Shaw said she understood that Fischer said the county could act on the agenda item as posted.
Commissioner Carl Hummel asked County Attorney Bob Busselman to weigh in on the topic.
Busselman said he wasn’t sure he agreed with the opinion offered by Fischer.
“I don’t believe that that is the correct reading on that,” Busselman said. “because you need to advertise, but you need to advertise when you have a vacancy.”
“We don’t have a vacancy or opening until we correctly go by statute and we get rid of the road administrator we have now,” Rosales said.
Shaw asked Assistant County Attorney Betty Yarter for her interpretation of the statute.
“The statute requires that we give thirty days notice to the road and bridge administrator to terminate his job, – we in essence did not terminate his job, or his employment, I should say, and so his employment remains and whether he remains in the capacity of a superintendent, based on the motion, or whether he remains in the capacity of a road and bridge administrator is a question I think that y’all have to answer, but the issue is you still have to give him notice to remove him as administrator, you must give him thirty days written notice, ” Yarter said. “You can advertise for anything you want to advertise, you don’t have to have a vacancy.”
Rosales asked for clarification in regard to the intention of the court in regard to Wiatrek’s position.
“It wasn’t done right,” Commissioner Hummel said. “It doesn’t pass the smell test. It should have been differently if it was going to be done at all.”
Busselman said that he felt a more proper order would have been to first notify the administrator of the court’s intent to remove him from his position, then to advertise for a new administrator.
The court discussed the issue further before Judge Shaw called for a motion. The motion carried on a 3-2 vote with Jauer, Schendel and Shaw voting in favor while Rosales and Hummel voted against.
The next item addressed the issues of salary range and starting date for the advertisement.
Jauer suggested a salary range of $60,000 to $80,000 per year for the position. Jauer agreed to prepare the wording for the advertisement.
Judge Shaw made a motion to approve advertising for a road and bridge administrator and set salary range and starting date.
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Jauer, and passed on a 3-2 vote with Jauer, Schendel and Shaw voting in favor while Rosales and Hummel voted against.
In other business, the court approved hiring Mangold Roofing to make emergency repairs to the courthouse roof.
“There are roof leaks in your existing courthouse,” said Phase 1 Courthouse Restoration Project Construction Liaison Lorraine Dailey. “The west side of the roofing has been replaced and restored with the phase 1 restoration project and so the rest of the courthouse needs to at least be maintained while you are waiting for additional funding to be able to go on to phase 2 of restoring the courthouse.”
Dailey said the estimated cost of the work is $8,310 to make temporary repairs to each of the four rooftop turrets.
County Commissioner Pete Jauer made a motion to approve moving forward with the repairs. Jauer’s motion was seconded by James Rosales and all voted in favor.
In a related agenda item, the court approved a change order removing some work tasks associated with the phase 1 courthouse restoration project, while adding others. The change order cost estimated at $6,503, will come out of the project contingency fund, Dailey explained, leaving about $4,710 remaining in the fund.
County Attorney Robert Busselman withdrew an item that he had placed on the agenda seeking approval for permission to retire on or before July 20 and asking the court to appoint Betty Yarter to the position of county attorney.
Herb Hancock had signed up to speak on the item, but when the item came up, County Judge Barbara Shaw said he could not speak on the item because the item had been withdrawn.
“If he has pulled the item, we’re not going to speak on it,” Shaw said. “I think that would be fair.”
“I don’t need to speak,” Hancock said, explaining that it wasn’t necessary as the item had been withdrawn.
In other business, the court unanimously approved amending the budget by $49,042 needed for unanticipated additional costs to bring the county jail into compliance with standards required by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.