The Blanco County Commissioners conducted a Special Meeting in the Commissioners Courtroom of the Blanco County Courthouse in Johnson City, Texas on February 25th, 2014. The meeting opened at 9:00 a.m. and all four County Commissioners and Blanco County Judge Bill Guthrie attended. A brief recess was held, and the meeting resumed at approximately 10:00 a.m.
Gene Hooper, Veteran Peer Coordinator of Military Veteran Peer Network gave a Presentation to the Commissioners regarding Veterans benefits and services available for veterans in Blanco County. Director Jesse Morales spoke first. Morales began with a fictional story of “Paul,” a veteran who had committed suicide the night before. Paul had served his country courageously, but when he returned home he was forced to fight for a job and benefits. Paul suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
According to Morales, “about 22 veterans a day commit suicide. The program that we have developed is a three tier program. We wrap the person in the support they need…this is done at the County level and elsewhere to get the needed resources. We want to remind them that we’re here, but that they must follow the laws, and there are resources if they are needed.”
Morales continued, “These individuals need adrenalin and excitement because of their exposure to it during their time of service. They often make poor choices and as a result encounter law enforcement. “
Gene Hooper addressed the Commissioners after Morales finished speaking. He expounded on the points of the program offered to local veterans. Hooper said, “Our program is peer to peer, mentor to buddy system, and the basis is for community healing. Preventative medicine can offer support for those with problems. We want to take them on “go do outings” so they get together with us. This program needs volunteers. Local churches and libraries can offer meeting places.”
Hooper continued, “these opportunities are priceless. We must help these people to re-establish their loss of mission and loss of family. There is no stronger bond than the sense of protection they get from being with those who hold their life in their hands. [With our support] there is no crisis, no EMS. We want to help provide stability and better lives for our veterans.”
Hooper ended the Presentation by saying, “We need you for community support. There is no cost with the program…you know your County and resources. We want to dignify our veterans.”
Commissioner Paul Granberg asked if the veterans need help with transportation to medical facilities. Hooper replied there is a good coordination with volunteers, and, “We have never failed to address real needs immediately. We do not want to say no.” Judge Guthrie thanked Morales and Hooper for their presentation and for their support of the program.
The Commissioners went on to consider purchasing guidelines, payment restrictions, and policies to improve the Internal Controls over County Funds. Judge Guthrie and County Auditor Cindy Lent addressed the Court. Judge Guthrie said, “the County has grown and communications have changed via intra-departmental business and weekly issues. The need for credit card use, travel, and purchase orders has increased. Our size and diversity has also increased. We should very seriously consider revising our purchase orders (P.O.’s) and credit card use. This [use] creates tremendous County liability. Changing to the new system will not be an easy process but it is inevitable.”
Of particular concern to the Court is that credit cards are billed 30 days out, and as Judge Guthrie said, “if the money is not in the budget 30 days later when we are billed we still are obligated to pay.” Auditor Lent said, “the County can’t approve [payments] if I can’t. We can avoid this quagmire with the new program.” Commissioner Granberg observed that “proper documentation is important.”
Blanco County District Court Debby Elsbury asked if the County has a per diem for employees. Sheriff Morgan proposed that his department use one credit card rather than several, and with stricter controls. Judge Guthrie replied that cutting usage down to one credit card would not solve all our problems and would not address possible legal issues. Auditor Lent advised the Court that P.O.’s can be obtained to use for credit card company purchases.
Additional discussion about the use of P.O.’s for credit cards followed. Auditor Lent suggested there should be specific guidelines on statements. Judge Guthrie said that using P.O.’s for credit card purchases would take the money out of the line item immediately. Commissioner Chris Liesmann asked if the P.O.’s would renew monthly and the Auditor said, “that will be up to you to handle. You can leave open if you [the Court] want.”
Commissioner Granberg asked about using P.O.’s for credit card purchases for repairs. According to Judge Guthrie, “there can be a line order in the transfer attached to the P.O. We also need P.O.’s for vendors. State contracts save us money because we get better deals. Purchases are pre-paid on P.O.’s.”
Judge Guthrie concluded the discussion by saying, “I recommend we adopt [the program]. The new program would be effective April 1st. This would give us six months to work under our current budget and work out any kinks.” County Auditor Lent added, “it is a big step but a move in the right direction.”
After the lengthy discussion ended, motions by the Court were made pertaining to invoices, credit cards, and purchase orders. With regard to invoices, Commissioner Granberg made the motion that with the new purchasing policy, a monthly statement is unacceptable to authorize payments to a vendor. Any payment to a vendor should be based upon an itemized invoice, initialed by the Department Head to ratify a legal obligation and to help eliminate duplicate payments. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Liesmann. A vote was taken and all four Commissioners approved the motion.
With regard to credit cards, Commissioner John Wood made the motion to adopt a policy that outlines authorized expenditures, limits on the dollar amount, and create a means for the County to recoup funds if the policy is not followed, with a limit of $300. The motion was seconded by Commissioner James Sultemeier. After discussion concerning the $300.00 limit, Commissioner Sultemeier withdrew his second to the motion and Commissioner Wood amended his motion by making the motion to increase the limit of $300.00 to $500.00. This motion was seconded by Commissioner Liesmann. Discussion was called for and all Commissioners except Commissioner Sultemeier voted in favor of the motion; the motion carried.
With regard to purchase orders, Commissioner Sultemeier made the motion that all purchases for goods and services shall be routed through the County Judge. When a department needs to purchase supplies or services, he/she will do so by filling out a requisition form and submitting that form to the County Judge. This requisition will be verified against the budget. The requisition will then be assigned a purchase order number. Items will be charged against the department’s budget. The requesting department is responsible for notifying the vendor of the purchase order number and to verify all charges. The requisition amount should be a total of charges including shipping and handling. The only exceptions to a requisition are the following: Recurring expenses: utility bills, telephone and water bills; payments established on a recurring basis as required by approved contract; emergency purchase orders; request for travel advancements; and personal services. This motion includes stipulation that purchases be done under procedures as set out by statute and outlined by County Auditor hereby known as Blanco County Purchasing Policy and Procedures to become effective April 1, 2014. Commissioner Sultemeier’s motion was seconded by Commissioner Granberg. Discussion was called for and the motion carried.
A motion to adjourn was given by Commissioner Liesmann and seconded by Commissioner Sultemeier.