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TipSheet: Travis County, 8.4.20

Tuesday, August 4, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

The Travis County Commissioners Court meets every Tuesday at 9 a.m. To help our readers stay informed, each week we offer a selection of interesting items from the voting session agenda. The entire agenda is available at the Travis County website. This week’s meeting will be broadcast to ensure everyone is able to follow social distancing regulations. The public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or tuning in to public access channel 17.

3. Consider and take appropriate action regarding a resolution and order mandating compliance with Local Health Authority orders and rules, adopting criteria for declaring a public health nuisance, and authorizing enforcement. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Photos of residents congregating without masks are making the rounds in the news and on social media despite local ordinances requiring people to wear masks in public. In July, Travis County gave these mask mandates teeth, authorizing a $250 fine for anyone failing to wear a facial covering in public. However, this sum pales in comparison to the city of Austin, where those going without masks in public may receive a fine of up to $2,000. On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court will look at ways to motivate county residents to wear their masks more conscientiously when they go out in public.

5. Consider and take appropriate action on amendment to small cities interlocal agreements for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Last week, commissioners noted that not all of the cities that asked the county for direct funding assistance had submitted signed interlocal agreements and the spending plan that the county requires in order to send funds. At the same time, the spending deadline of Dec. 30 attached to federal Covid-19 relief funds is edging ever closer. With significant demand on the county from organizations and individuals looking for relief, this item may serve as an effort to light a fire under the smaller municipalities seeking funds.

6. Consider and take appropriate action on terminating a license agreement with Lakeway Regional Medical Center for a Lakeway EMS Post Location. (Commissioners Shea & Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: It seems that Travis County EMS services are no longer needed at the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Lakeway (formerly known as the Lakeway Regional Medical Center). In 2013, the county executed a license agreement with the Lakeway-based medical center to use the facilities as an operations base for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services. However, when Baylor Scott and White took over the center, there was no record to indicate if the 2013 license agreement was formally transferred. Regardless, the county’s operations are no longer needed. The president of the Lakeway medical center, Philippe Bochaton, asked to terminate the agreement with a backdate of 2013 in order to pursue a similar contract with Austin-Travis County EMS from the city of Austin. The annual payment of one dollar associated with the contract will be immediately discontinued.

9. Approve order exempting the purchase of Albert Network Monitoring Services from Center for Internet Security, Inc. from the competitive procurement process, pursuant to County Purchasing Act § 262.024(a)(7)(A). (Commissioner Daugherty)

Monitor’s Take: The subject of internet security has been a topic in the commissioners’ executive sessions this month. Although the discussion never made it to open court, this contract shows that the county is continuing its investment in IT security. Travis County is seeking to continue to use services from the same contractor for an additional year without pursuing the competitive bidding process because the county’s IT department currently uses the Albert Network Monitoring Service from Center for Internet Security. CIS is a nonprofit organization that, in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, provides federal, state and local governments network monitoring services. Due to this limitation in choice (there is only one source for this monitoring equipment) the county is exempt from the competitive procurement process. The total contract amount for this monitoring service that will oversee two data hubs is $35,040 and will cover a full year between Aug. 11, 2020, and Aug. 11, 2021.

21. Consider and take appropriate action regarding new contracts to provide election services for the following entities located in Travis County.

Monitor’s Take: The Texas Supreme Court ruled that lacking immunity to Covid-19 is not seen as a disability under the law for Texans seeking to vote by mail in the upcoming elections. At the same time, the court noted that election clerks are not obligated to verify claims of disability from voters. Since the state’s highest court put the kibosh on efforts to enroll voters in a mail-in ballot program, Travis County is continuing to increase in-person voting operations. With this item, the county would provide election services for 11 new entities, including several small municipalities and the Manor Independent School District.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.

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