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Hidalgo-County-SealFern McClaugherty, OWLS (Objective Watchers of the Legal System), spoke out Tuesday against a proposed agenda item giving county employees an additional holiday in 2014. Returning Columbus Day to employees was on the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court agenda for Tuesday, Nov. 5.

McClaugherty told commissioners she had researched all 254 counties in Texas and found that most Texas counties gave no more than 12 days. Some gave as few as eight while El Paso County had 15.

McClaugherty told the court that 75 percent of the county’s residents had incomes under the poverty level and 79 percent of them lived on fixed incomes. They could not afford for the county to be giving away holidays where the county had to pay salaries but got no return on them.

Currently the holidays set for county employees include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Good Friday and the Monday after Easter. Other holidays include Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving (two days), Christmas (two days) and New Year’s Eve.

In the past employees also have received Columbus Day, but it was taken off this year.

McClaugherty told commissioners very few other counties gave the Monday after Easter. They also do not give New Year’s Eve. Most give two days at Christmas and Thanksgiving and some even gave three days. Others, like El Paso, give Cesar Chavez’s Day and Juneteeth.

Judge Ramon Garcia said employees did not get the same number of holidays each year because sometimes Christmas fell on the weekend instead of in the middle of the week.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Joel Palacios stated since employees had not received a cost of living adjustment but once in the last five years and were not likely anytime soon, he did not see a problem with giving them an extra holiday.

The commissioners were told it takes about $400,000 to $500,000 a day to keep the county running. The figure shocked some of the Commissioners.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Joe Flores asked, “Why are we even discussing this?” We have a huge deficit budget and we are talking about giving more free things to employees. I’m against it.”

The judge called for a short executive session and when the commissioners returned, they voted to keep the holiday schedule like it is without returning Columbus Day as a paid holiday

Under Health and Human Services Director Eddie Olivarez was granted approval for a county employee to be stationed at Knapp Medical Center, Mission Regional Medical Center, Rio Grande Regional Hospital, McAllen Medical Center, Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. The purpose of these employees is to help people who need indigent care get enrolled in the program.

Olivarez also told commissioners that a discussion on the funding for the County Health Care Funding District for the next fiscal year would be held Nov. 19.

Commissioners listened to a presentation from American Traffic Solutions about using mobile cameras to catch speeders in school zones. The camera measures the speed of the driver. If a driver is speeding, the camera takes a picture of the car’s license plate and the car. A speeding ticket or $150 would be issued (less than the cost of a ticket issued by traffic policemen). Tickets would be mailed to offenders. Those who do not pay would fall under the Scofflaw, which would not renew driver’s registration of licenses until all tickets have been cleared. The money from the fines (after the cost of equipment) would be divided between the cities and school districts where the cameras are placed. With 300 elementary schools located in the county, a recommendation of 20 mobile cameras was suggested. The cameras would be moved around so that speeders in more than one area daily could be apprehended.

Commissioners liked the idea and gave tentative approval of the cities and school districts that would have the cameras.

In other action the county gave permission for an interlocal agreement between McAllen, Palmhurst and Alton for improvements to Shary Road from FM 1924 (Mile 3 Road) and SH 107.

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