Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Changes add $71,000 to cost of administrative building

Hidalgo-County-SealConstruction Manager Alex Palacios told the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court that some of the changes being made to the old Hidalgo County Administrative building would cost $71,055.

The cost includes changes to the north wall of the building on the first floor. It also includes changes on the second floor to the district attorney’s office on the southeast corner and on the northwest corner. Also included was the chiller for the HVAC system.

However, there are still more changes to come, such as the schematics for the Commissioners Court in lieu of a judicial court. More alterations are planned for the Emergency Management Office. The cost of those changes have not yet been finalized because the architectural plans are not complete.

County Judge Ramon Garcia said he thought the architectural plans were already supposed to be completed and in Contractor Bill Wilson’s hands as of last week. He was told the major concerns from the previous week had been addressed and the concerns not yet priced were “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Garcia said it was time to get out of design mode and into construction mode.

The court was told that if there were no further delays the finish date for the building would be Nov. 20.

Eddie Olivarez, director of Health and Human Services, told commissioners the amount of money assessed to Hidalgo County as a mandatory payment for the Hidalgo County Health Care Funding District was $11,167,341. Using a multiplier of 3.5 percent, the money the county would receive for indigent care would amount to almost $44 million. He said the first two payments are due Feb. 28 and the third and fourth payments are due May 1 and August 1.

The commissioners also heard a report from Terry Crocker of Tropical Texas Behavioral Center, which has four locations in the Rio Grande Valley: Edinburg, which is the headquarters, Brownsville, Weslaco and Harlingen. The center has 553 employees and a budget of $58 million to serve the 800,000 plus residents of Hidalgo County.

The centers treat mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar and depression. They also deal with drug and substance abuse.

Crocker said a new funding method from the state makes it impossible to send some extremely ill people out of the Valley for treatment.

Crocker said the new expanded funding had eliminated the youth waiting list and the adult waiting lists. It made it possible to offer services to juvenile detention centers to determine that no one was erroneously committed to jail in need of mental help.

In other action, Olivarez and a committee, reported on a plan Called Hidalgofit, a wellness program designed to keep employees healthy, thus decreasing use of the county health program. It also addressed problems within the county.

One suggestion was a monthly newsletter encouraging healthy eating habits. Another was having employees search the county’s website to see which providers offer the medical tests they need at the lowest price. Olivarez quoted one employee as searching the approved vendors when her son needed an MRI and finding a $500 difference in cost.

One concern addressed at the meeting is the mobile food vendors in flea markets. Many leave their trailers in the same location for years and do not get inspections. Raul Sesin, planning director, recommended that flea markets be required to create food courts that provide hot and cold running water and restrooms for customers of the mobile food vendors who would be located in the food court.

Under financial matters, Financial Director Sergio Cruz told members of the court if they had taken the advisc of Estrada Hinojosa to refinance three bond issues in the fall when they made the recommendation, the county could have saved $1 million.

However, the county’s financial advisor told commissioners if they waited until this year, they might save as much as $2 million if the market remained stable. The county listened to its financial advisor, but the market did not remain stable. Cruz said the county lost savings possibilities up to $650,000 by not taking Estrada-Hinojosa’s advice.

Cruz said the county could save up to $200,000 by refinancing the two smaller issues but the chance for big savings on the larger issue had passed.

The county also had a discussion on rural trash pickup, debating whether it should have one rural provider or use six of the seven vendors currently collecting trash in rural areas of the county. Concerns are if only one vendor was selected, the other six would be put out of business and the one selected would have to grow very quickly in order to provide countywide rural service.

A second concern was there would be no competition in the future to keep prices low. The vendors would have to pay a five percent franchise tax to the county.

Marty Salazar told the court to consider the cost of insuring six vendors over one vendor. Even with the seven current vendors, only a small percentage of rural residents opt for garbage service. Keeping all the current vendors might place a financial burden on the county, Salazar said.

One of the problems the county faces is that it has three dump stations for rural residents to take their garbage themselves. It was suggested that a fee of $10 per dump be assessed to those taking their garbage to the dump stations to encourage them to opt for roadside service.

No final decision was made on whether there would be one rural service provider or six providers.

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