Gregg County commissioners court discusses parking facility, jail staff overtime, bullet shields
GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Gregg County Commissioners Court planned for multiple new improvements on Monday.
The commissioners and Judge Bill Stoudt held a discussion about a proposed parking garage on a property across from the courthouse. Two bids were rejected last year because of high costs, and the commissioners all have different opinions on how the project will be funded.
During the commissioners’ parking discussion, Precinct One Commissioner Ronnie McKinney referred to a 2011 study.
“The number one reason people come to downtown is for the courthouse,” McKinney said.
Parking, especially on jury duty days, is a problem. The county purchased a lot across the street for $1.3 million, and so far it only has 75 parking spaces. The commission is looking into a parking facility.
“Since we started on the parking facility, we’ve had 72 meetings. I kept up with them, and I’ve gotten very tired of it,” McKinney said.
Stoudt said the rejected bids for a multi-story parking facility were $18 and $19 million.
“If we cut the scope of the project, we can get it below that. If we stay at the scope, it’s going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $19 million, and so there’s a lot of discussion that needs to take place,” Stoudt said.
Stoudt said courthouse visitors sometimes park a block away, taking parking that businesses need for customers.
“We have received complaints regarding that. We’ve been talking about this for some time, and I believe now it’s to the point we’re ready to move forward with it,” he said.
But, Stoudt said county financing has been affected by legislators.
“Senate Bill 2 and House Bill that erased our 8 percent ad valorem tax down to 3, and that 5 percent was basically the gravy. We paid as we went. We paid cash for most things, and then we put the rest into savings. That’s no longer an option anymore,” Stoudt said.
He said the Gregg County tax base is growing, but not enough for the county to pay cash for a big project. Stoudt said the court could vote to raise taxes for seven years to pay for the parking facility, then drop taxes back down.
“I would want the court to give a lot of consideration regarding putting it out for a vote to the citizens,” Stoudt said.
For now, courthouse visitors will continue parking where they can find a space. Potential ideas range from a three-story parking garage to reworking the present lot to about a hundred parking places.
Stoudt said the commissioners will continue weighing options and hope it becomes an action item later this month. If there is no agreement, they will continue discussing the issue until they come up with a viable solution.
Commissioners also voted on paying overtime to Gregg County Sheriff’s Office employees.
Commissioners voted, unanimously approving back pay to sheriff’s office employees who needed to put in extra time working at the jail. The county paid $51,000 for the overtime.
“We’re running short in terms of our employment up there, and so we’ve had to have other people step up and fill in those slots, and so we’re paying them overtime,” said Stoudt.
Another item on the agenda was approving acceptance of a grant of about $24,000 for the purchase of six bullet resistant shields. The money came from the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division. Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said the shields are built to resist gunfire from a rifle.
The commissioners also took another step towards getting broadband into rural Gregg County. They approved Frontier Communications’ request to install underground fiber optic cable within the county’s right of way. There are eight locations the cable will go in around the Liberty City area in Precinct Three.
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