Sheriff discusses 'unfunded mandates'

Although the courts and many county offices would move to the new Justice Center if the county’s facilities bond proposal is approved by county voters, the current courthouse building would still house many public service and county-related offices.

After introducing the two county bond packages that will be on the ballot in November earlier this year, Kaufman County has released concrete details about where all of the money will be going if the proposals are passed.

Overall, the $100,000 road bond, if passed, would provide for 70 road projects across the county as well as extra funding for STAR Transit, a county road plan and bond program management. Fourteen of the projects would take place in Precinct 1, 10 would be in precinct 2, eight would be in precinct 3, and precinct 4, which needs the most work done, would see 24 projects birthed from this package. Fourteen of the road projects would cross precinct lines and are thus listed as “county-wide” projects.

In total, the package would put $47.8 million toward county roads, $49.1 million toward TxDOT roads, and another $7.1 million toward city roads for the package’s total $104.1 million.

The county’s $50 million facilities plan would fund seven different projects with the lion’s share going toward a new justice center which would house all of the county’s district courts, the district attorney’s office, the district clerk, the county clerk, pre-trial diversion and the justice of the peace, essentially replacing the current Kaufman County courthouse. In total, the justice center would take $37 million of the overall bond package’s $50 million.

The remaining money would be divied up among six other locations including $2.4 million toward renovations for the current county courthouse which would house public service offices, the tax assessor, the county clerk, development services, purchasing, veteran services, the county judge’s office, IT, HR and the auditor’s office. Another $3.8 million would go toward the construction of an emergency services center at Forney ISD, who has offered the county 15 acres of land next to North Forney High School for a law enforcement/first responder facility. The location would include space for education related to both and internship opportunities for Forney ISD students. The package would also provide $2.6 million for the creation of a 7,500 square foot sub-courthouse in Terrell for municipal and county services, and the expansion of the Kemp sub-courthouse on North Main St. in Kemp, which would add an additional 5,000 square feet to accommodate the building’s heavy use and the increased case loads of the JP court. Forney’s sub-courthouse would also see renovation with $600,000 going toward a 1,500 square foot expansion to that facility. Finally, the remaining $1.9 million of the bond package would go toward the creation of a 7,000 foot regional animal shelter and adoption center to be operated cooperatively with cities and developers on county property adjacent to the Kaufman County Correctional Facility. 

During last week’s meeting of the commissioners court, the commissioners also heard from Kaufman County Sheriff Bryan Beavers and approved a proposal for laboratory services from Armstrong Forensic Laboratory in Arlington to test confiscated marijuana for THC levels, which is now required by the state in order to prosecute cases.

“Once again we’ve got some unfunded mandates that we usually get when the legislature passes some bills for us,” Beavers said. “When we talk about the testing of marijuana, we have to go outside and get that now because to prosecute the case we have to have the THC level and DPS does not do that for us. I’ll find the money in my budget to fund it, but I have to have it to prosecute the case.”

The commissioners also approved adjusting the court’s meeting schedule to the second and fourth Tuesday of every month, rather than the weekly Wednesday meetings and approved the county holidays for 2020 which include Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 20, President’s Day on Feb. 17, Good Friday on April 20, Memorial Day on May 25, Independence Day on July 3, Labor Day on Sept. 7, Columbus Day on Oct. 12, Veterans’ Day on Nov. 11, Thanksgiving on Nov. 26 and 27, Christmas on Dec. 23, 24 and 25, and New Year’s Day on Jan. 1, 2021.

Finally, the commissioners approved the commissioners court meeting minutes for Aug. 28, Sept. 9, Sept. 11 and Sept. 13, approved a resolution to continue the receipt of bingo prize fees, accepted the Tax Assessor-Collector’s monthly report for August, entered into an interlocal agreement for Kaufman County to collect taxes for Post Oak Bend, approved election contracts with the cities of Mesquite, Crandall, Kaufman County ESD No. 6, Kaufman County FWSD No. 7, Becker-Jiba water supply corporation and Forney ISD, approved the treasurer’s monthly report, approved the receipt, transfer and disposal of county owned assets, approved permission to solicit for Kaufman County Road 4009 bridge replacement, awarded a contract for engineering services, electrical services, HVAC services, plumbing services and general contracting service, approved an interlocal agreement and project agreement for the City of Rosser to blade County Road 4087 four times per year, approved an interlocal agreement and project agreement for the City of Kemp to repair the city section of Woodbine Drive, approved a payment of longevity pay for assistant district attorneys and addressed current and back-pay rates, and approved line item transfers and claims for payment.

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