At a special meeting of the Commissioners Court of Blanco County on August 25, Commissioners failed to give the go-ahead for the Blanco County Central Appraisal District (BCCAD) to purchase property, construct, and finance an office facility for its exclusive use. This item had been tabled at the previous meeting in order to seek legal counsel after allegations that the BCCAD had failed to follow State procedural guidelines prior to purchasing the property for the facility.
County Judge Bill Guthrie stated that after consulting with counsel they had concluded that although some irregularities had occurred, they felt that nothing illegal had been done. Commissioner Chris Liesmann recused himself from discussing or voting on the item because his company plans to bid on the construction of the facility in question.
County Tax Assessor/Collector Hollis Boatright presented the Court with written information concerning the issue. Judge Guthrie asked if there were any present from the public who wished to address this item. Milton Hawkins stood and asked to read Ms. Boatright’s letter. His request was granted.
Mr. Hawkins suggested to Commissioner Wood that he should recuse himself from voting on the issue because he is also a member of the BCCAD board of directors. As a County Commissioner, he would be voting to approve what he had previously approved as a BCCAD board member. Judge Guthrie indicated that State law allows a person to sit on more than one board. Mr. Hawkins insisted that it had the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest and again suggested that Mr. Wood recuse himself. Mr. Wood declined.
Mr. Hawkins presented the Judge and Commissioners with a detailed history of the transactions that have taken place in order for the BCCAD to build the facility in question. He cited Texas Property Tax Codes and pointed out what he claimed to be procedural violations by the BCCAD. These included but were not limited to: approving the purchase of property before any description of the property was made available; purchasing the property without first seeking and getting authorization from the appropriate entities; exceeding the amount of expenditures authorized in the original resolution; three-fourths of the taxing units in the appraisal district must approve the proposal—at least some were not even approached prior to the purchase of the property and have yet to approve the matter; no alternatives to the proposal in question were provided as per State statute.
Mr. Hawkins asks whether or not the proposed construction of improvements on the property purchased by the BCCAD Board is in the best interests of the majority of the taxpaying citizens of Blanco County. He contends that taxpaying citizens already own, and are paying for, an entire vacant block next to the existing courthouse in Johnson City.
He contends that the property is large enough to accommodate both the offices the County needs and to house the offices and personnel of the BCCAD that is now housed in the old (and admittedly inadequate) Courthouse Annex. He recommends selling the BCCAD property and returning that money to the taxing units as per Texas Property Tax Code.
Mr. Neill Binford of the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District indicated that his board will not approve the present proposal by the BCCAD because they do not want to be party to any legal hassles that might come about as a result of the BCCAD’s actions. Johnson City ISD has rejected the present proposal on two different occasions while the Blanco ISD has approved it.
Commissioner Granberg said, “We’re doing what we can. Constituents don’t want to throw out two years of work. Mistakes may have been made, but nothing illegal.”
Candice Fry, of the County Tax Assessor Collector employee, said, “Mr. Hawkins is going on and on about legal issues, and I don’t believe there are any.”
Commissioners Granberg and Wood voted to approve the BCCAD proposal while Judge Guthrie and Commissioner Sutlemeier voted against it. Lacking a majority vote, the item failed to be approved.
On a related item, the Tax Assessor/Collector’s office requested that the Commissioners Court provide a monthly cost estimate for renting 2400 square feet of office space in the new County Annex Building. Judge Guthrie asked if this request was from the BCCAD Office or from the BCCAD Board. Because the request did not come from the Board itself, there was no action taken on the item.
The commissioners authorized the County Judge to sign an Interlocal Assistance Agreement with the Regional Auto Theft Enforcement Task Force. Sheriff Elsbury voiced his support of this program and is grateful to be included in it. It was approved.
The County Judge was also granted authority to negotiate a utility easement (sewer line) with Pecan Street Brewing. This would affect County property. The item was approved. Authorization was also given to use special funds for computer equipment.