Sanchez: Bond may be needed

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Jim Wells County Commissioners voiced their concerns Friday about the current condition of county roads and the lack of resources this coming year to adequately attend to their condition.

While considering year-end budget revisions for 2006, county commissioners voiced concern about funding for road maintenance in the road and bridge fund this coming year.

"I don't know how we're going to be able to keep up with the roads this year," Commissioner Wally Alaniz said.

Commissioner Zenaida Sanchez said it was her understanding that the court was going to take a look at a greater distribution of the Road and Bridge fund this year.

"We're going to have to hit the people with a road bond or an adjustment of some kind to handle these projects this year," Sanchez said.

"If we decide we need to push roads this year, we should do that. We have to have a systematic thing every year," County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz said.

"We saw a good portion of the $300,000 fund increase go into running and staffing the jail," Sanchez said. "I think this year, along with the jail, we need to look at this road issue."

Alaniz explained that the county has caliche roads, but the caliche itself is of such poor quality that when it rains, the caliche turns to mud.

"They (citizens) don't know what we go through, the tack oil we need for the roads is not available right now, and our own materials are not up to state specs," Alaniz said. "For just stabilization on one mile of road, it costs $1,200. With 200 miles of county roads, it would be well over $200,000 just for stabilizing the roads."

With the increasing economy in the area, and the increased use of heavy trucks in the area, Saenz said the roads are in worse shape.

Alaniz also said there is an increased occurrence of mudding with trucks on the seldom-used county roads, which he says is ruining the roads and creating a big problem.

The agenda for the special meeting of the Jim Wells County Commissioner's Court on Friday also included an item that considered an interlocal agreement between JWC and the City of Premont for shared use of emergency services and equipment. Saenz said the county would receive new repeaters to improve communications across the county. The county wanted to use the city's water tower as a location for one of the repeaters.

Sheriff Oscar Lopez said the cost for the county would only be in the once-a-year routine maintenance of the repeater. The interlocal agreement, prepared by the Premont city attorney, was approved by the court.

With Nora Flores retiring at the end of the month from County Auditor Eladio Gonzalez's office, another employee would have to be selected to become authorized to sign accounts payable and payroll checks, as was part of Flores' duties. Gonzalez recommended Jane Stehle for the job, and the court approved granting her the authority to sign the checks.

The commissioners also approved a resolution to establish a mental health transformation community collaborative, involving the service areas of Jim Wells, Kleberg and Brooks counties.

The effort is an attempt to address community problems that are too large or complex for any one agency or organization, according to the agreement. The contracting entity will be the Community Action Corporation of South Texas, which sponsors the Coastal Bend Rural Health Partnership. Along with seed money from the CHRISTUS Fund, the partnership hopes to arrive at a shared vision of improving the health of communities in the area.

Frank Vasquez, a spokesman on the project, said that out of the 28,000 adults in JWC, several thousand suffer from some type of mental or emotional problem. Of the 12,200 children in this county, nearly 1,300 suffer from serious emotional problems.

"We're trying to bring interested individuals together to develop interventions to solve problems in mental health," Vasquez said. "Of the total number of people with a mental health issue, the 70 percent who don't receive care end up in places like jail."

The agreement called for a representative from the county to service on the collaborative board, and Commissioner Ventura Garcia Jr. volunteered to serve. The court unanimously approved his position to the board.