Court has until April 2 to fill the post

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

With the creation of an election administrator position Monday, Jim Wells County Commissioners hope to centralize the voting registration and election process under one office.

It is a move that county officials say neighboring counties have already made, including Duval and Brooks counties.

"As part of our duties now, we have to help with municipal, school district, water district and county elections out of our office, along with our other assigned duties," JWC Clerk Ruben Sandoval said. "In May 2006, we helped the city and county with elections, and with little time to prepare, we persevered. The entities in the county must rely on us for equipment. Elections have become a full-time job."

He said under the guidelines of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and with the developments in the Texas Elections Administration Management System, election administrators must take on the duties of voter registration as well.

These remarks were shared by JWC Tax Assessor-Collector Lucila Reynolds, whose role it is to handle voter registration information. She asked the court to also consider approving the new position of election administrator.

Sandoval said that with eight entities looking for the county's assistance when it comes to handling the elections, and with elections taking place in both May and November, the role of handling elections has become a full-time position in Jim Wells County.

The officials agreed and approved the resolution creating the position of County Elections Administrator for Jim Wells County.

State law gives the court the deadline of April 2 to fill the position. There was no discussion of salary for the new position or where the office would be housed.

"We're going to have a meeting with the election committee, which includes the heads of the county's Democratic and Republican parties, myself, the County Judge and the Tax Assessor-Collector to decide on who to appoint to the position, and at that time we will also review the resources that will be available to them and the salary for their position," Sandoval said, after a Monday night meeting of the Alice school board.

He indicated the salary could be similar to what he and the tax assessor-collector currently earn, about $58,000 a year.

Since there is no state funding to supplement the money required for the position, County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said this was "another unfunded mandate" with which the county will deal.

"This is the big step for JWC, from the infamous Box 13 incident to an election administrator, there are a lot of people rolling in their graves right now," Saenz said.

In other court business, the county commissioners approved a resolution authorizing early turnover on delinquent personal property taxes.

"This is mainly on personal property, such as trailer homes, that sometimes don't receive notices until July," Commissioner Javier Garcia said. "Some of them are moving without paying taxes, which means entities lose money. This change will put it faster on tax rolls, which will speed up collections."

Residents living along County Road 341 petitioned the court to have a portion of the road closed.

Robert Elizondo and several of his neighbors signed a petition asking for the closure of a portion of County Road 341 where they live, because of "mudding" taking place in front of their properties.

"We're having problems with kids in the area going mudding on our road, tearing it up. It makes it difficult to get to my property, and my wife is having a difficult time, too," Elizondo said.

Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez, who had taken a look at the road herself, said that the condition of CR 341 is much worse than CR 118, which is also in a muddy state, in part because of mudding activity conducted by local youths.

The commissioners agreed to the posting of the notice of application to close a portion of the road, which must be posted in three public areas, and the group would have to wait 20 days before a decision could be made to give anyone against the road's closure an opportunity to speak.