By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – In some closing remarks before adjourning Tuesday morning’s commissioners court meeting, County Judge Jacques Blanchette addressed division among officials that has surfaced in discussions during public budget workshop meetings last week.
“The worst thing that could happen to us as a governing body is for outside voices and influences to divide us and create discord among us. Well, it’s happening,” Blanchette said.
County employee Kay Timme spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, prior to the regular agenda, and said she wanted to address things as a taxpayer as well as an employee.
“I challenge all county officials to get past the divisiveness and begin to work together,” she said. “You all have an obligation to the citizens of this county.”
Part of the discussion during last week’s budget workshop that resulted in a lengthy discussion had to do with part-time employees and overtime pay. Timme said she was one of the part-time employees in question.
Timme said she worked throughout the pandemic shutdown, and did a variety of labor-intensive tasks, including filing, research and drafting of documents, and worked 17.5 overtime hours.
“Those of us who worked so diligently in the early stages of COVID made great personal sacrifices to serve the citizens of the county during a very challenging time. We earned every dollar we received,” she said. Timme also spoke to the skillsets and responsibilities of employees and how they relate to compensation.
Another aspect of the budget workshop discussion, which Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall spoke about, was the hiring of retirees to fill positions. With regard to salaries and benefit packages, Marshall said that he was not in favor of hiring individuals who already had retirement income. Timme, who is a retired teacher, addressed this discussion from the workshop. “How do any of you know what a person’s financial needs are?” she asked.
“This is a slippery slope,” she added. “Are you going to restrict hiring to only those folks who are not retired?”
Blanchette later read a letter submitted by Timme announcing her resignation as the county’s coordinator of special projects. The oversight for the courthouse remediation project was transferred to the commissioners’ court for reassignment.
County extension agent Jacob Spivey also spoke on matters of divisiveness during the public comments portion.
“We have got to get past this sniping at each other…because we’re doing a disservice to the county if we don’t,” he said.
Spivey also addressed an agenda item, which transferred managerial oversight and personnel supervision from Blanchette to each of the four commissioners for the Agri-Life Extension Office; the Department of Public Safety; the Veterans’ Service Office and the county’s maintenance/custodial/grounds office. Spivey said of the topic, which was discussed at length during the regular agenda portion of the meeting, that it does not matter who he reports to. “Whether we’re appointed or elected, everybody who serves this county ought to be…serving this county before serving anything else.”
Proposed tax rates voted in
The commissioners voted to approved the proposed tax rates for the county’s general fund, the county special and the hospital district.
The proposed rate of .6782 per $100 of valuation, the same tax rate the county has operated on from the past two years, was voted for by Commissioners Marshall; Buck Hudson and Stevan Sturrock, and against by Blanchette and Commissioner Martin Nash. The proposed rate for the county special also was the same as the two preceding years, and was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Blanchette voting against it.
The court unanimously approved the proposed rate for the hospital tax (also unchanged at a rate of .2294 per $100 of property values.)
The public meeting to vote on the tax rate is scheduled for Sept. 28 in the commissioner’s courtroom at 11 a.m.