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TipSheet: Travis County, 9.1.20

Tuesday, September 1, 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. The public can access the meeting by watching the livestream or tuning in to public access channel 17. This week will focus heavily on budget and disaster relief preparations since both of those themes are coming to a head as summer begins to look toward fall.

5. Consider and take appropriate action regarding a declaration of local state of disaster and public health emergency for Travis County’s response to and recovery from Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco, including but not limited to: A. Necessary measures and actions regarding Travis County’s operations, policies, emergency assistance, measures necessary to preserve public health and safety, and applicable orders, declarations, or resolutions, including communications from the State B. Approving proclamation continuing declaration of disaster associated with Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco C. Receiving update on recovery and emergency assistance measures (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Adding to the list of emergencies that Travis County is currently weathering, last week brought two hurricanes to batter the Texas Gulf Coast. Shelters in Austin quickly filled up with evacuees. Faced with helping restore normalcy to the lives of fellow Texans, on Tuesday the Commissioners Court will receive an update from emergency services on the recovery and assistance measures the county has extended to those who fled the storm. The court will also consider extending the declaration of disaster associated with Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco.

8. Consider and take appropriate action to approve short list of selected finalists to be interviewed for appointments to the Sobering Center Board of Directors. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Two out of Travis County’s four appointments to the Sobering Center Board of Directors will be departing at the end of the month. To fill these two slots, the county opened a call for applications in July that closed on Aug. 14. Out of the 19 applicants who applied to serve on the board, a screening committee identified five finalists: Larry Wallace, Rick Ybarra, Susan Chen, Paulette Blanc and Selena Alvarenga. County commissioners will conduct final interviews at a special voting session on Sept. 10 in order to select two candidates who will step into their roles and serve on the nine-member board come the end of the month.

13. Consider and take appropriate action to: A. Approve an order setting Calendar Year 2021 Sheriff’s and Constables’ civil fees B. Approve updated and new fees for the Medical Examiner C. Approve updated fees for the Fire Marshal’s Office in Emergency Services D. Approve updated park user fees for the Transportation and Natural Resources Department E. Receive an annual update on fees to be charged by towing companies called by the Sheriff’s Office for non-consent towing (Commissioner Gómez)

Monitor’s Take: Fees are going up next year. The Medical Examiner’s Office is proposing adjusting the autopsy fee by 15 percent as well as introducing a new service called Chart Review and Medical Opinion, a lower-cost option in which the ME reviews the chart of the deceased rather than physically examining the body. The Fire Marshal’s Office is also increasing its building permit fee by $50 and site plan review will go from being $60 per hour to a flat fee of $300. Transportation and Natural Resources will implement fees for services that have been free of charge, including a fee for annual trailer parking, a parking reservation fee and a reservation and usage fee for shaded picnic sites. Athletic field reservation fees will also increase by $2 per hour.

25. Receive followup regarding Travis County Clerk Elections preparations for the November 2020 General Election and associated budget, and take appropriate action. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Last week, the Commissioners Court approved the county clerk’s approach for the upcoming general election in November, which will include a drive-thru and in-person voting strategy. However, as of last week, the final costs for the proposed efforts remained undefined beyond a general ballpark estimate of $2.4 million. County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir promised to return this week with an exact figure for the total expenses associated with November election preparations. Going off the estimates from last week, it will likely be around $500,000 in additional expenses in order to provide 833,000 registered voters with safe voting options.

1. Consider and take appropriate action regarding FY 2021 Budget Mark-Up. (Judge Biscoe)

Monitor’s Take: Part of the annual budget process involved commissioners and staff working together to make last-minute changes and alterations to the preliminary budget that was presented on Aug. 18. A change request that is sure to make an appearance is the Health and Human Services Department’s ask for an additional $540,000 on top of the $5 million that the Commissioners Court allocated from federal Covid-19 relief dollars. There are also plenty of other adjustments that are likely to be made over Sept. 3-4 at a special voting session dedicated to the process.

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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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