City, county wrestle with fee schedules
By LPR Staff
Public funds are once again at the heart of an issue that divides the City of Lockhart from Caldwell County in terms of what is best for taxpayers on the whole.
Two members of the Caldwell County Commissioners Court approached the Lockhart City Council on Thursday evening to request the city waive permitting fees for the
construction scheduled to take place this winter at the Caldwell County Jail. Commissioners Tom Bonn and Joe Roland brought the case to the council after learning that the fees might cost up to $15,000.
“We tried our best NOT to have to build a jail,” Roland told the council. “But we”re at the point now where we have to build one. The city is arm in arm with us on this – they have to house their inmates somewhere, and the only thing we charge the city for that is the booking fee.”
Booking fees then became a major topic of conversation. Traditionally, the Caldwell County Jail charges up to $50 per head in booking fees to other agencies, such as the Lockhart, Luling and Martindale Police Departments. These fees are charged even if a municipal agency arrests a suspect on a county warrant. Lockhart”s booking fees last year were some $13,000.
According to research done by City Manager Vance Rodgers and Lockhart Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, the Caldwell County Jail is one of the few in the state that charges booking fees.
After much discussion, the council and Commissioners opted to try to reach a compromise, with the county waiving booking fees as the city waived the permitting fees for construction.
“We”ve got the same people paying the same taxes,” Bonn said. “I don”t see any point in one entity taxing the other.”
Some councilmembers, however, expressed concern that permit fees had not been waived for other public agencies in the past. For instance, when the Lockhart Independent School District built the Bluebonnet Elementary School campus, the district paid the permitting fees.
“I”m worried it might set a dangerous precedent if we waive the fees for the County when we haven”t done so in the past,” Councilmember At Large Paul Gomez said.
In an effort to facilitate construction, the Council opted to issue the building permits without waiving the fees, with the understanding that Rodgers would work with the Commissioners to complete a compromise.
The Caldwell County Commissioners met on Monday, Nov. 19, but the topic was not part of their agenda.
In other business, the council heard a proposal from a land developer regarding four large tracts of land on Highway 142.
CLP Venture I came forward on behalf of the Griffith Family Partners to discuss rezoning four parcels of the Griffith family”s land, stretching southward from the Union Pacific Railroad tracks past Borchert Loop, and eastward from FM 2720 past City Line Road. The recently-annexed property was all zoned Agricultural-Open, but developers requested the council change the zoning to a mixture of light industrial, heavy commercial and heavy residential.
Because each of the four tracts will be in some way impacted by State Highway 130, City Planner Dan Gibson suggested the requested zoning would fall well in line with the city”s growth plan.
Although no details are available, CLP Ventures indicated they are moving forward with plans for significant development of the property. The council agreed unanimously to the rezoning.
In brief news:
The Council heard presentations from the Texas Municipal League (TML) Risk Pool regarding employee health insurance. City Finance Director Jeff Hinson presented considerable research indicating that city employees might have a more cost-effective insurance plan through a major group provider, also saving the city upwards of $30,000. The council agreed to change employee health insurance providers effective Jan.1, 2008.
They read a proclamation declaring Dec. 3, 2007 “Tree of Angels Day” in Lockhart. Several members of the Victim Assistance Team were on hand to receive the proclamation.
The council canvassed the votes from the Nov. 6, 2007, election, which showed only one proposition failing. The other 25 passed by reasonably wide margins.
Because of the holidays, the Council opted to hold only one meeting in the month of November. Normally, the council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the Glosserman Room at Lockhart City Hall. The meetings, which begin at 7:30 p.m., are open to the public, and are also televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.