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Hidalgo-County-SealRules for electioneering in Hidalgo County are going to be more restrictive, according to a presentation by Yvonne Ramon, director of the Hidalgo County Elections Department, as a result of House Bill 259, affecting voting periods for elections after June 2013.

Electioneering means the posting, use of distribution of political signs and literature. It cannot take place within 100 feet of the polling location. Electioneering will be allowed outside the 100 feet of the polling place, but only during early voting or on election days, even if it is on county-owned property.

The bill stated that signs for candidates must be set up at polling places within 30 minutes of early voting times and removed within 30 minutes after polls close each day. They cannot be left overnight.

Because Hidalgo County parking lots are designed for use of those on official business, electioneering will be restricted to one vehicle per candidate (no tractors or trailers) on County property. Signs are restricted to a four-foot by eight-foot size or smaller. There will be no use of handicapped or other special-designation parking areas.

Ramon recommended Hidalgo County not allow barbeque pits, or tents on the right-of-way. Alcoholic beverages and use of illegal drugs are also to be restricted. The bill also forbids use of loud speakers to lobby for candidates. While vehicles with signs are acceptable, no tractor-trailers could be parked on county property near election sites.

The head of the Democratic Party was present to say she felt the 30-minute requirement for placing vehicles with signs in parking lots was too restrictive. Commissioner Joseph Palacios thought the 30-minutes might be chaotic, resulting in traffic problems as people arriving at the same time vied for the best positions. Judge Ramon Garcia agreed.

After discussion, it was decided it would be best to allow vehicles to park the night before early voting begins and remain in place until the election is over.

When the discussion of whether barbecue pits should be allowed, it was pointed out the use of wood fires and gas barbecue pits greatly increased the liability for the county. It was decided that food could be brought to the site already prepared but not cooked on the premises. No type of grill or pit would be allowed. Non-alcoholic beverages could be served.

People with election signs or literature can not enter the polling places from a time period starting 30 minutes before voting began until 30 minutes after it ceased.

Meanwhile, under construction related matters, the contract with Prodigy Construction Management for re-roofing the law enforcement /adult detention facilities roof and related repairs project was terminated with a 30-day written notice at the request of Alex Palacios, owner of the company, who cited budgetary restraints as the reason for giving up the project.

There are no new updates to the ongoing rehabilitation of the administrative building other than a report that a saw cut into a wall on the northwest side of the building had severed an unknown power line resulting in a period of time without electricity one work day. There are no plans showing a power line existed at that location.

Commissioners considered the option of renewing the county’s contract for financial advisory services with First Southwest Company. Cris Vela of First Southwest said during his company’s service, the county’s savings had almost doubled.

However, based on Vela’s advice in a previous meeting where he told Commissioners not to refinance bonds in the fall but wait and hope for lower rates a couple of months later, which did not happen, commissioners voted to terminate First Southwest’s services at the end of the current contract. Had the county followed the advice they received from another financial advisor, they might have earned $1 million in savings over the life of the bonds in question.

The court also decided to terminate a contract with the local public broadcasting station, which is up for sale. Commissioners were told weekly service costs up to $150,000 a year and if they were to buy time on private stations the cost would be prohibitive. Commission meeting will no longer be broadcast on Tuesday evenings.

The commissioners gave their approval to a resolution in support of an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community affairs for the 2014 Competitive nine-percent housing tax credits for the development of Orchard Estates Apartments on a 10-acre site on the east side of Stewart Road north of Mile 4 Road in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of Alton.

Approval of a local match of $850,076 for Tropical Texas Behavioral and Health System in accordance with the Texas Health and Safety Code Contract was approved. A second payment to Tropical Texas Behavioral Health in the amount of $159,334 for psychiatric emergency crisis services was approved for a total payment of $1,009,410.

Under indigent health care concerns, the court agreed to accept a deed without warranties from Texas Health and Human Services for the John Austin Peña Memorial Center.

Permission was given to apply for a Prostitution Prevention Court Program grant as requested by Patrick Arnold of Adult Probation.

Approval also was given to submit a funding proposal for funds to augment local health department epidemiological capacity for outbreak disaster response with special emphasis on food-borne illness investigations.

SAMES Engineering was selected for engineering of Urban County Year 26 (2013) Palmview street improvements.

An advance funding agreement in the amount of $9,097 was approved for a project between Hidalgo County and the Texas Department of Transportation for Moorefield Road between Mile 2 North and State Highway 364.

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