Gonzales County commissioners have tabled until May 23 an interlocal agreement to pay for radios for the various first responder agencies in the county until some concerns about the agreement are resolved.
Commissioners met in a special session Monday, May 16, to review the agreement, which would have the county using American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds to pay for new radios for all law enforcement, fire department and EMS personnel in the county as well the four road and bridge precincts.
On Monday, May 9, the court voted 3-2 to give ARPA money to each entity based upon a bid submitted by Motorola and Victoria Communications Systems (VCS) to pay for new handheld and mobile radios, an amount that is expected to be between $1.7 to $1.8 million.
County Auditor Becky Weston said commissioners will need to fill out the dollar amounts they will be paying to each entity on the interlocal agreement so she knows how much to give each agency.
Weston said the estimate she has is that it will cost Gonzales County $1,721,009.92 to pay for the purchase of all radios requested by first responders, including an extra $12,755.80 for the Sheriff’s Office and $1,790 for Precinct 1 Constable John Moreno to purchase what VCS calls their “elite package,” which includes remote microphones with installation.
While there is currently about $1.9 million remaining in the county’s ARPA funds, the county also has committed to paying Tyler Technologies $445,641 to convert Gonzales County from server-based to cloud-based use of Odyssey, a software which is used by the courts, prosecutors, public defenders, county and district clerks, law enforcement, corrections, and adult supervision. That would bring the total amount committed to $2.16 million, Weston said.
“Based on this interlocal agreement, you will have overcommitted what is in that fund,” Weston said. “I realize we are supposed to get money in June, and this includes the Odyssey amount, which we have not been billed for yet. I’m not trying to say don’t do it, but I am saying to be cautious and don’t overcommit the money you do have.”
County Judge Pat Davis has previously said Gonzales County is expected to receive $2.4 million next month in ARPA funding and the county will not have to formally pay for the radios until they come in from the manufacturer.
However, Weston said, the county needs to be able to issue checks to the entities once any interlocal agreement is approved.
“I also need this court to set an amount for handheld and an amount for mobiles because whatever is left over in the agreement can be used for public safety, but this court has never said how much they are going to pay,” Weston said, adding purchase orders have already been issued for any radios for county agencies.
“For the entities, we will issue checks once you do your interlocal agreement (with them),” Weston added. “You need to do your interlocal agreement and set the amounts you are going to give all these entities. I have a small spreadsheet set up based on what Jimmy has sent me, but these aren’t full dollar amounts, but just estimates. You have to set the amounts. They will get it approved through their agencies, get it placed on the agenda and they’ll be issued X amount of dollars.”
Weston said a number of these agencies will have to be added to the county vendor list, which means she will need W-9s and addresses for where to send checks.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin La Fleur noted the agreement appeared to only cover “handheld radios,” based on the wording contained within. Davis said the intent was to cover both handheld and mobile radios and it appeared mobile radios had been inadvertently left off the agreement.
Davis said he was originally going to wait until May 23 to bring the item back to court to make sure they had the right information in the agreement, but he had been told by the commissioners’ administrative assistant that the item was ready for a special called meeting on May 16.
“I’m trying to do the best I can without communication,” Davis said. “It seems like the only time we communicate these days is when we are in court.”
La Fleur also suggested the need to list each entity receiving funds on the agreement and the amount they will receive.
“That way, if anything were to ever come back, we can say, ‘That’s where the money went. Right there,’” La Fleur added. “I’d like to table this and get this straight and then come back with it.
Commissioners voted unanimously to table the item until May 23 so all of the concerns can be ironed out before an interlocal agreement is approved.
In other action, the court voted to amend their June 14 notice of election to remove Waelder as a site for both early voting and election day voting.
Elections Administrator Gwen Schaefer told commissioners she was concerned that Waelder residents would try to cast a ballot if a voting precinct was open in their area. The only races on the ballot for that day will be a special election for U.S. House District 34, which includes Nixon and Smiley, as well as the runoff for Gonzales mayor.
“It’s only a certain part of the county that will be affected,” Schaefer said. “I feel like if we had (the Waelder precinct) open, all of the voters in that area are going to be really confused. They are going to walk in thinking they can vote and they can’t.”
Commissioners also canvassed the May 7 constitutional amendment and entities election and approved the results unanimously.