SINTON – It’s been a very interesting first year,” San Patricio County Judge David Krebs said with a laugh on Monday. “Getting elected, taking office Jan. 2, legislative sessions, the annexation process and then the Port Commission process – it’s been really interesting.”
Judge Krebs said that when he took over his position he had about 30 items he wanted to get done but quickly realized that some will take some time.
“You know, I’ve got four years to do it, and that’s what people were telling me, ‘You don’t need to get it all done the first year,’ so we’ll just progress through it and get all of it taken care of.”
Krebs was quick to realize that some of the courthouse employees were apprehensive when he first took office but feels like they’ve been receptive of his ideas as he is of theirs.
“If (employees) have an idea how to improve their department and will make the county run more efficiently, I’ll listen and see if we can work it in and get it done. And we’ve done that on two or three different things here in the courthouse.”
He added that he also has an open door policy for anyone – employee or county citizen – can come into his office and sit down and chat with him.
“I don’t care who it is, if they live in the county they get to come in and talk to me,” he continued.
Krebs said that having served as Portland mayor for 14 years really prepared him for dealing with all the new industry coming into the county.
He said he saw it coming and had a plan ready.
“I had a good idea of what I was getting into with the industry,” Krebs said. “I knew we needed to look at the abatement schedule and we needed to start getting those pilot payments up front from the industry to help run the county.”
He said that the county is turning to pilot payments, or payments up front from industry, to cover those costs.
“We need that money coming in up front so we can operate and do things that we need to do,” Krebs added.
Streamlining how the courthouse works
Along with simple things like streamlining the Commissioners Court agenda and having it available online for the public as well as commissioners, the judge is looking at other departments and taking their suggestions.
For the sale of delinquent property, Krebs reached out to the tax office who mentioned they should make the listings available online.
“People can sit in their office instead of having to come in here, fill out all the paperwork and look at everything in person,” Krebs added. “They can sit in their office and bid on these parcels that are up for sale and if they’ve got it they’re notified and then we’re off and running.”
Catching issues before they become problems
Two weeks after the judge took office he received a call from then County Sheriff Leroy Moody telling him the jail was undergoing an inspection.
“So that was an interesting one,” Krebs laughed. “But then Deputy Sheriff (Oscar) Rivera had done a lot of work himself and he probably saved the county half a million dollars because of that work he did in there by himself.”
The judge said the county needs to address things as soon as they become problematic and take care of them as soon as they can.
The courthouse will not only be stepping up security for their offices like placing bulletproof glass panes in the clerk’s office, he plans on tackling cyber security which has become a major threat to counties around the country.
Hackers have been taking over county computers and asking for ransoms – some in the millions of dollars – to allow them access to their computers again.
“The county has had tremendous growing pains,” Krebs added. “With all the industry that’s coming, we’ve outgrown the courthouse.
“We have no more room.”
Perhaps the biggest issue the county judge is facing is the lack of space in the courthouse. Just this last budget session, they had a request for 11 additional county employees but they had to deny those requests because there was no room.
The only thing bigger than the issue is the proposed solution, which could change things drastically in the county, but for the best.
“In the next couple of months or more, we’re looking at maybe forming a committee so we can look at building some kind of judicial complex out on the east end of town,” he explained. “We can move all the district judges out there, move the county court of law and the county court out there which will open up offices.
“So that’s going to open up a lot of space here in the courthouse and make this all administration and make that building out there all judicial with two, three or four court rooms, whatever we can get in there.”
He added that once the census is completed in late 2021 or early 2022 they’ll have a better idea of what other positions they’ll need and actually have room for them.
Pilot payments from industry could also help fund that complex so the county can issue smaller bond amounts for large projects.
So that’s one of the projects we’re going to look at, you know, we’re in pilot payments from a lot of the industries that are coming in now, which means we get money up front. And we’re putting all that money in the separate account to where maybe we can use that I mean if we can build a complex and pay half of it right off the bat, we won’t have to bond that much. Yeah, to get it in here, because that will be fantastic if we could get that second floor empty, we can move all of our health department in here, move all our emergency management people in here and get them away from over there where they’re at.
Krebs said he gets up around 5 a.m. every morning to make it to the courthouse around 6:30 a.m. just to greet the incoming employees and sit down and talk with them and wait for what the day brings.
“I’m not anybody that’s on a pedestal in this courthouse,” Krebs said. “I want to be one of them.
“And I thoroughly love what I’m doing.”
Paul Gonzales is the editor at the News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270 or at mathisnews@mySouTex.com.